Remembrances – Text


Girija devi dasi

The years that Yamuna Devi Dasi lived in Saranagati, were one of the greatest sources of living spiritual inspiration that I have ever experienced. Her sweet nature and humility won our hearts and taught us deeply. This book will be a tremendous help and a source of inspiration to all those who read it.

Gokulananda das

YAMUNA DEVI is one of our great saintly devotees, as an exemplary perfected disciple of Srila Prabhupada. She embodies all of the pure Vaisnava qualities that Srila Prabhupada wished to see manifest in his followers: her total devotion to guru and Krishna, her personal concern and love for all Krishna bhaktas, her deep taste for Krishna Nama and Krishna kirtan manifested in her selfless dedication to the Sankirtan Movement, as well as her joyous and affectionate demeanor and genuine loving nature that always left the most positive impressions on us all. We will sorrowfully miss her inspiring association, and we will cherish her immense legacy of pure devotion which she humbly shared with all of us fortunate to have had such a beautiful soul in our sangha.

Yamuna Mataji is the personification of Srila Prabhupada’s love for all his followers. She always emanated true concern and care for all she met. And her devotion was always personal and humble, never ostentatious. Her meekness and purity of heart just radiated with genuine love for Srila Prabhupada and all his followers. Her legacy is imperishable. Thank you Yamuna Mataji for helping us better understand one of Srila Prabhupada’s greatest gifts to the world: such glorious saints as you.

Gopalanandini dasi

My dear Dina throughout all of these years you and Yamuna where the ones who gave so much for us. You taught us the most important and life changing thing: to have Krsna in the center and do everything for Krsna. My childhood memories are filled with so much of your examples I only wish one day I may be able to live your examples as well.  My dear Yamuna, even though you are not here, I can feel your presence, your beautiful smiling face and kind sweet eyes. Thank you for giving me your love, I will always treasure it.

Haripriya devi dasi

My alarm clock rings. It is 5:00 on a summer morning in Saranagati Village and it’s almost time for mangal arotik. After getting ready, I step outside into a crisp and quiet morning. Picking a flower from our garden for Their Lordships, I jog up the hill on the way to my favorite place, Banabehari Mandir. Once at the top, I look down towards the ashram and see dim yellow lights shining through the early morning mist. Coming up to the beautiful stained-glass tilak door, I lightly knock—one, two, three—and almost immediately, my favorite voice answers, “Haribol! Come in!” Slowly, opening the door and stepping in, I say, “Haribol!” From the kitchen I hear, “Oh, choti Haripriya! I’m so happy you are here! I’ve been thinking of you!” Yamuna walks around the corner with a warm smile. She wraps me up in a tight embrace and I squeeze my eyes shut and hug her, cherishing every moment in her arms. After a few seconds, Yamuna takes me by the hand and leads me towards the temple room. Before entering, she taps the hanging chimes which ring in a high, sweet pitch. Wafts of incense mixed with the fragrance of flowers meet my nose. I hear Dina behind the deity curtain, humming beautiful tunes as she prepares for arotik. On this and every time I come to Banabehari Mandir, I think, ‘This is what the spiritual world must be like. I am home.’ Yamuna asks me if I would like to play the drum and picking up the wompers, she sits down on her blue ball in the back of the temple room. Suddenly, the conch shell blows, the bell rings and the curtains swing open to reveal a beautiful sight. There on the tall marble altar, lit by an array of candles, surrounded by silver animals and vases full of blossoming flowers, gracefully stand the most beautiful deities: Sri Sri Radha Banabehari. They take my breath away, as they always do. Dina begins singing the “Samsara dava” prayers while she gracefully offers incense to their Lordships. Then Yamuna and I softly join in with our own voices and instruments. Carefully listening for Yamuna’s voice behind me, I hear it dipping in and out, freely weaving notes over and under ours, as if wrapping our offering with love. It is a most melodious and transcendental sound. In Banabehari Mandir, everything is a meditation, everything is a heartfelt prayer. I close my eyes and try to hear. Mangal arotik in Banabehari Mandir has only just begun.

Jayanti devi dasi

I don’t think that any of us knew how special Yamuna was until she was gone.  It was our very special mercy and karma that great devotees such as Dinatarine and Yamuna Prabhus resided here, in Saranagati, for the time they did.  The last ten years of my life have been so special because of that.   Yamuna and Dinatarine brought so much devotion to the valley, not to mention the whole world.  Where would we be without them?  Even when I think of the small drops of mercy I got from them at morning programs at Radha Banabehari Mandira, I am moved.

I always thought of those drops of mercy as instruction from Yamuna.  Whenever I went to programs (or even saw Yamuna elsewhere), I felt like she could see into my heart and mind, therefore giving me what I needed at the time.  Just those programs at their home were so special, seeing their amazing worship of Radha Banabehari.  Those morning programs really helped me to understand Krsna consciousness better, and helped me to develop a better taste for the holy names.

Any time that you weren’t feeling good, or you needed something, Yamuna would always say or do the right thing.  This always inspired me so much.

I remember the last couple of years at Govardhana Academy were made extra-extra special by the contributions of Yamuna and Dina.  Every Tuesday we had either cooking class with Yamuna, or scroll saw class with Dinatarine.  Yamuna taught us how to make different flavoured chapatis, holy crackers, mango fool, rice, and simply wonderfuls.  Before we started to cook, we would stand in a circle and recite the Mangala caranam.  Then we would learn about what we were doing, cook, clean-up, offer and then sample what we cooked.

Dina taught us about scroll-sawing and helped us to make wooden parrots for the parrot festival.  It was so wonderful to have these moments to share with Yamuna and Dina, and it meant a lot to me.

Not to mention all of the times they came to the school, such as Prabhupada’s Appearance day and shared their mercy and devotion with us.

Yamuna and Dina came all of the way to our house one day and gave us some pumpkin pie that they made.  It was heavenly!  It was like food that came straight from the spiritual world!  I can’t believe that they drove all of the way just for that!  I will never forget that day.

Yamuna and Dinatarine organized the Parrot Festival a couple of years ago.  It was a very special time.  They went to India and brought back material painted with designs of parrots and berries for everyone!  At the Parrot Festival, all of the deities in the valley were brought to the temple and set-up on tables by the altar.  We made scroll saw parrots with Dina. When we were finished decorating, the temple looked like a kunda inside  most wonderful forest!  It was too beautiful!

Each family did a presentation on one of the nine processes of devotional service.  Yamuna and Dina made that festival happen and they made it wonderful.  I will never forget how special the Parrot Festival was.  Or how Yamuna  felt like my deity got the most wonderful worship that day.  It never could have happened without Yamuna and Dina.  I thank them millions of times for all of the opportunities and devotional service that they gave me.

Thank you Yamuna.

Kalindi devi dasi

At Vrindavan 2013 memorial

Hare Krsna. So I come from Saranagati along with my four other friends, or the Milkmaids. Yamuna and Dina named us Radha Banabehari’s Milkmaids, when we were about nine years old.
She would always invite us, we were completely unaware of the mercy we were getting. For us, we were living with Yamuna for our whole lives, so we basically took her for granted, completely. And we really didn’t realize the great special mercy that we had being with her, being in her association. Just seeing how much she loved Krsna, her Deities, and Prabhupada, and all the devotees.
But now we are really starting to understand and realize the special mercy. I wanted to describe what it was like to go to one of Yamuna and Dina’s mangal arotik’s in Saranagati. I am not sure, I am sure some Saranagati devotee has already explained it a little bit, but they have a beautiful asrama that they built themselves, out of straw.
And it is completely designed according to vastu. Everything is perfectly arranged. Everything. It is incredible. The moment you step into that asrama, it is like you are in the spiritual world. You feel as if every little atom, every molecule of everything in that asrama is vibrating with the holy name.
So anyways, it is usually pretty cold at Saranagati in the mornings. So we go at 5:30. And the sun is just coming up on the horizon, on the tips of the mountains, and I live pretty close to Yamuna so we would walk there.
It is cold, and you pick a flower for the Deities, because you know that Yamuna really, really appreciated that whenever you see the Lord, and all these little things that we know we are supposed to do. She never really specifically instructed us, “You know you have to do this.” She would show it by example. Whenever she came to our house, she would always bring something for Krsna. Or wherever she went, she would always bring something for Krsna. In that way, we saw that this is something that you are supposed to do.
Anyways, so we picked our flowers, and we walk over there, and they have a small gravel walkway, and you open the gate, and you crunch in the gravel, and you are so excited to go see Radha Banabehari early in the morning, in Their pyjamas.
So you go over there and you can see the lights on, and you know it is warm in there, and so you walk in, and you would always knock a little bit, and then go in. they would always be like, “Come in!” And they would always call us, “Come in sweet things. Haribol! Good morning!” They were always so happy to see us. It was like ever fresh or something, like they hadn’t seen us in years, and they were so happy to see us.
You open the door and you walk in, and it is dimly lit. they have these little lights that line the ceiling. And the mantra mantra is right underneath it. There is usually Prabhupada chanting, or they will have some tape going before and you can smell incense. It is so warm and cozy. Just you feel like you are in the spiritual world, you feel like you have just stepped – everything else is far behind you.You don’t care about anything else. You are just so excited to sing for the Deities and see Radha Banabehari.So they start the mangala aratik, and it is so sweet. Everybody would sing together. And you could hear – Yamuna would always sit in the back, and she would play either play a gong, or play a shaker, or sometimes she had a little keyboard, that she had on a setting that was kind of like an organ, so it would hold the notes.And she would, she was amazing at playing it. You wouldn’t believe it, but she was an amazing harmonium player, but she had only this little keyboard. She would play all these notes, and she would be singing. And I remember in the last few days I’d always be listening trying to hear her sing. I would go quiet and listening to her beautiful voice. And it was just so sweet.Whenever we would have Bhagavatam discussions, it was never like a class, we would discuss everything together. And she was always so inquisitive – you know, how do you feel about it?
Yamuna would always put you on the spot. That is one thing she was very good at. You know, she would, “Kalindi what do you think about that?” And you were like, ‘Oh, Krsna… and you say something. It would automatically make you go into your heart and pull out your deepest realizations and feelings. It was never like, she made it in such a way that you didn’t have time to think about what you were going to say. She just, encouraged you to speak from the heart.
Once a week we would go to their asrama, help serve the Deities and clean the asrama. Yamuna and Dinatarine were so encouraging. Even if you were just sweeping the floor. They would be like, “I have never seen the floor more clean in my life. It is so beautiful. It is so clean. You did such a good job.”
And it is just the floor. And you would polish the silver and they would be like, “I have never seen the silver more shining before.” You make vases, and there was so much encouragement. And it made you so much wanting to please them. You would try your very best, just to get that encouragement from them.
And everything that we did together, you would walk out and they would say, “See you in a couple of minutes.” If you go to mangala aratik the next morning, ‘It is only a couple of minutes away”.Even though it is actually more than that.
But that is what it was like for them. Whenever they saw us it was “we will see you soon. Or that we are always together. We are always connected.”
Every evening, after bhajans, or whatever program we would do, we would do something called a kavaca. We would all go around in a big circle, and we would have our arms around each other, or we would be holding hands, and she would get one devotee to say a prayer. Kind of like a sankalpa. Like a protection. And we would sing the maha mantra really loudly. Like yelling the maha mantra. And it was so sweet. And if you so had the special mercy of holding her hand, she would hold it and squeeze it, every once and a while she would squeeze your hand. And you could feel her rocking, and sometimes she would hum. She would put her head on your shoulder, and she would just hum.
With Yamuna, there was always a little big of tears in her eyes. Every time I saw Yamuna she always had like either tears in her eyes, or coming down. She was always feeling so much – her heart was so soft. So in love with Krsna and the devotees. It was just incredible.
Everybody, there are so many people said wonderful things about Yamuna, just incredible, there is not one drop of exaggeration. You know everything you have all said, is exactly Yamuna. And it makes me so like, Yamuna really could touch every single person. They felt like, you know, she loved them the most. That is like such an amazing quality. The pure devotee, makes you feel like when you are talking to them, that they only thinking about you, or they only love you. That you are extra special to them. Yamuna was able to do that with everybody.
And as they describe Yamuna, it is like, “Wow, that is the Yamuna that I know too.” So many people love her, it is just incredible.
I am so amazed and happy that so many people got to – or know Yamuna. Of course, like for me, it is like my whole life. But she had a life before being at Saranagati. And it is hard for me to adjust to that, and it just makes me so happy. She was able to place Krsna inside of you, in such a sweet way. That you didn’t even realize it. But slowly you are starting to fall in love with Krsna more and more.
She had such a strong like – she didn’t really teach us by specific instructions. Everything she would teach by example. Everything she did. Youknow they were saying, instead of instructing Srila Prabhupada’s vani, she lived through his vani, his instructions. And that just, so much love she had for Srila Prabhupada and Krsna. It was impossible for to not feel that yourself. Not to feel that love yourself. Suddenly something you have no idea about, and she talks about it, and suddenly you are in love with that. One of the goswamis, or one of the personalities from the Chaitanya Caritamrta or anybody. She had so much feelings for everything. She would just express it, and you were like, oh I love that person too. It is so nice.
It was incredible like that. There are so many things that I could say, but there are so many other people that can say something. So I guess that is all. Thank you so much for letting me speak.
Hare Krsna.


While we were at Melborne with Yamuna and Dina we were very much focused on the form of Krsna’s mercy through the tests he puts us through. Sometimes Krsna will put us through very painful situations so that we can come back to him. We were talking about examples like Maharaj Parkisit, Pralhad, and Haridas Takur. How they were all placed in very painful situations but they all saw it as Krsna’s arrangement and mercy.  A way for Krsna to take us back to him. As we were talking Yamuna said, “It shows that there is so much farther and higher to go. In our literature it’s so exciting that we all have role models. We need to have someone that you feel who will really always protect you, and these great souls by their very existence are there as shelter for us. We just have to find them.”  As she said this I thought… but I have found them, and that’s you Yamuna and you Dina. You are my role models, you have both been through so much. You have lost so much, yet you see it all as Krsna’s sweet mercy.  Little did I know that very soon this special pure devotee of the lord would be leaving us, to again reunite with her beloved spiritual master and Lord.

There is so much that I would love to say about this exceptionally, beautiful, sweet, loving devotee and dear most friend, but it would take up many many hours and many many pages. I have known Yamuna Devi for as long as I can remember and as I think back to each and every one of these memories they are filled with laugher, tears, hugs, but mostly pure loving devotion.  Yamuna Devi is the embodiment of transcendental pure loving devotion for her spiritual master Srila Prabhupada and her beautiful deities Radha Banabehari. There was never one moment in the time that I spent with her where she was not completely blissed out and happy.  The way she felt, worshiped the lord, and treated the devotees is the way that I someday want to be like. Yamuna was and will continue to be my spiritual master as long as I have memories of her. She is my full inspiration and encouragement in this material world.

So just like Yamuna and Dina were put through so many tests from her Lords Radha Banabehari so that she would quickly go back to them, we are also being put through a test. A test of love, devotion, and separation. This is our test that Krsna is given us, and it is our choice if we want to see it as his sweet loving mercy or as something so devastating. All I see when I think of Yamuna now is her with Srila Prabhupada helping to serve Radha and Krsna in Sri Vrindhavan Dham. Mother Yamuna YOU are my Haridas Thakur and my Prahlad. You are my role model and my protector and I have found you. I love and miss you from the bottom of my heart and soul; I know that this is not goodbye forever and that someday I will get to see you once again.

I offer my most humble and respectful obedience’s on to my Beloved Spiritual Master and most dear friend Yamuna Devi.

Yamuna was someone who sparked my Krsna consciousness. She was the one who gave me encouragement and support and she help me understand many things about Krsna that opened my heart to her and Krsna. She was someone who could inspire everyone in the room with her excitement, love, and eagerness in trying to relish Krsna’s pastimes. Yamuna was so dear to my heart because of the way that she could appreciate everything in the world and see it as Krsna’s or Krsna’s will. When I went to Melbourne about a month ago I could see how much she appreciated and absorbed Krsna’s mellows. When I was over there at times I would just sit and watch how she took in everything with appreciation, love and cherishment. I can still remember the times were she closed her eyes and just prayed to Krsna. It was simple, sweet and so intense. I could just see how she was constantly with Krsna and how she brought Him into her life. One thing I realized about her is that she didn’t just wait for Krsna to do something; she didn’t take Krsna for grated. She opened her heart to Him and dived in to his sweet mellows and pastimes without any restrictions and barriers. I miss Yamuna, Dina and Radhabanabehari sooo much. I try and remember every moment of the 24 hours that I spent at Yamuna and Dinas ashram. Visiting them made me feel like I came back home. I forgot how much I missed Yamuna and Dina and Radha banabehari. When I saw them all, I became soo overwhelmed with love, joy, and relief; I could not say anything for a very long time. I felt relieved because I suddenly felt safe, and protected and loved when I stepped into their ashram. It felt like Krsna became open to me.

When they left Saranagati it became harder for me to connect with Krsna. I had not even known that it was harder. But when I saw Radha banabehari in their beautiful temple room, magnificent and glowing, all of a sudden it felt like I could breathe again. It felt like I could talk to Krsna again and try and understand him.

Every moment of those 24 hours was like a dream. It was so peaceful and perfect there. It felt as if time had stopped.

When Yamuna and Dina had to move away from Saranagati, I could not accept it. I always imagined that they would live here forever. When finally they moved away, I thought that I would never see them again and the relationship that we had together would just fade away. But when I saw Yamuna, Dina and Radhabanabehari in Melbourne, I realized that the relationship that we have will never go away, it will be there forever, no matter what happens to us. This relationship that we have connects me to Krsna. It makes me call out to him in a way that I could not do alone. I am forever grateful to Yamuna. Yamuna and Dina have made my Krsna consciousness bloom. Without Yamuna and Dina by my side, my whole life I would be lost. When I talked to Yamuna and Dina about my feelings and realizations I felt no judgment and that made me feel so understood and cared for. The love for Krsna that she has for him seeps in every crack it can find in me and I get a small glimpse of love that she has for Him and I know that that is pure love for God. Thank you so much Yamuna for always being there for me. Always encouraging and understanding and always showing me a higher taste. Without your words of love and wisdom I would forever be hopeless and to over whelmed to open my eyes.

2011 and overall memories

Our last visit with yamuna and dina this November, was the best parting memory to have of yamuna, and also krsna’s mercy. Before our last kirtan with them, we read an excerpt from the book of Haridas

thakur, and I want to share a little with you. “Those who have taken shelter of devotional service shall definitely know that these obstacles have come to test our love and determination for the lord’s service. They are actually assisting us on our progressive advancement on the devotional path. We should remain firmly fixed in devotional service while accepting the deal examples of Namacharya Haridas Thakur and topmost devotee Prahlad maharaja. Simply to achieve something temporary human beings are baffled for hundreds of lifetimes. If, in spite of seeing thousands of examples of failure, such people even dare to give up their lives to attain insignificant enjoyment, then cant intelligent and fortunate devotees dedicate their temporary lives to understand the supreme lord who s the absolute truth for all time?” After hearing this, yamuna said “jeez luise.” Then Dina said “how would we be if we could live like that, and received  all the lords tests with happiness, that Krishna loves you so much that he was willing to put you through hell to come back to him.” Our entire visit seemed to be centered around this theme, of understanding, accepting and appreciating the hardships krsna puts you through to increase your love for him and eventually come home. Yamuna was telling us that now that she feels she was given a second chance, she feels nothing but gratitude, and her life has changed because of it.

We were speaking together yesterday, and we all expressing that our memories of yamuna are not specific or sharp, but that all out time with her is like one big blur, like one long day of transcendental bliss. We were all a little disturbed by the fact that we couldn’t pin point our memories, but we came to the conclusion that yamuna’s all-encompassing love was so wonderful, so powerful, and soul-connecting that our time with her wasn’t something that engaged the mind, but the heart and soul, which is why we felt feelings and emotions more then we recalled memories. This was yamuna’s legacy. She didn’t leave an imprint on your mind, but on your soul. Her ability to change someone’s life in just the hours or moments they had of her association was extraordinary.

Yamuna has given us so much; more then can possibly be expressed in words. She gave us a taste of pure service for the lord and she nurtured our attachment to the holy name; then blissfully sharing it with us when we were ready. When we were in her presence, the rest of the world melted away, problems became insignificant, and all the time in the world was not enough time to have with her. Her absolute and extraordinarily pure love for krsna and the devotees was so profound and her desire to share it with one and all was so deep that it all leaked into our souls, and even if we had no desire for it we had no choice because her love was just so contagious. There are so many things to be grateful for, but for me the most prominent gift I received from her was the holy name. It was through kirtan and bhajan with her that this seed was planted in our hearts, and through her care it grew and grew until from her association and guidance, through pure kirtan with her, it blossomed into such a deep and wonderful attachment for the holy name, for krsna and for pure kirtan. I don’t grieve for her absence, that can only bring happiness because she is eternally with radha banabehari and her beloved Srila Prabhupada, but I grieve for myself. I grieve for the lost opportunity, because I feel I didn’t take enough advantage of her presence, because I feel I have lost the food that fed my soul and the one thing that gave motivation and inspiration for progression in my spiritual life. But I have learned so much, I have been given a gift richer than anything in the world, something sought after by everyone, something so rare and exquisite, something few in the whole universe were blessed with; the association of a pure devotee, association with Yamuna.

July 14/09

Bhaktivinoda Bhajans.

Radha Banabihari Mandira with Yamuna, Dina, and community.

It was Tuesday night bhajans and I was tired and restless. Before Kar started the invocation, I prayed to Krsna to let me concentrate on the Bhajans that Bhaktivinoda wrote glorifying Lord Krsna and Sri Radhika. Actually, earlier that day I was talking to Bhakta Rob about the Bhajans saying that sometimes I get bored and my mind starts to wander everywhere and I don’t know what to do about it. Anyways I played flute for Lord Krsna for the first bhajan then on the rest I sat down a listened. Of course my mind started to wander and wander. Finally, on the last bhajan, Kar said that it was his all time favorite bhajan. I started to wonder what was so special about this particular one. Why was it his favorite? So I decided that I was going to put my mind on it and listen to every sound and meditate on Lord Krsna. As soon as Kar started singing I immediately knew why he loved it so much. It was the most beautiful bhajan I have ever heard. Every word, every sentence, every syllable was a name for Lord Krsna. Kar sang it slowly and softy and my heart just melted. It was so beautiful and sincere, how could anyone not just break into tears? My eyes started to fill up with tears, my voice chocked up, my heart started to hurt, and my hands started sweating. I closed my eyes and just listened. The more I listened the more beautiful it got. Tears started pouring from my eyes and streaked down my cheeks, I couldn’t help it. Kar then started chanting the Holy Name with the most beautiful melody ever. That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore. I missed Krsna so much my heart ached. I wanted to be with him so badly. I was freaking out in my mind. How can I live in this world without by beloved lord? He is my life and soul. “Krsna, I am giving you my life.” After the bhajan was over, I walked up to Radha Banabihari and prayed to them to be always able to be at their service, to love them, and go back home to them. I prayed to Muralidhara that I would some how have the great honor to play flute for him. “My lord, please let me some how play as a service to you.” Tears continued to pour from my eyes and down my cheeks. After almost ten minutes or so, Yamuna Devi came up to me and gathered me in her arms in a huge hug. As she was hugging me she whispered in my ear and said, “Sometimes I am lucky enough to cry for Krsna in front of lord Krsna. Cry for lord Krsna and he will embrace you.” Right then I felt like Krsna was embarrassing me through Yamuna. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced. I didn’t want to leave Radha Banabihari ever, I just wanted to stay there and look at them forever. I thought, “Krsna please kill me now when I am fully submerged in your holy names and separation from you. There might never be a moment like this again where I am feeling this much love for you. My beloved, this is my prayer to you: Darling Madhava, please never let me forget this day where my love for you actually caused me to weep in separation for you. I offer my humble obeisances to you and your beloved Srimati Radharani.”

 Your lowly, destitute, humble servant.

Kalindi Dasi

Karunamayi devi dasi

Our beloved Yamuna Devi served as a beacon of spiritual perfection and guidance for all in our tiny little slice of Vaishnava sangha in Saranagati, BC, Canada. She and Dinatarine Prabhu opened their ashram and their hearts for all of us, far and wide, to taste the nectar of their Love for Srila Prabhupada and their beloved Sri Sri Radha Banabehari.

My personal experience, one of many deep meetings over the 10 years I knew Srimate Yamuna Prabhu, was her keen desire to share Krishna with everyone. When my husband, Kripanidhi Das, and I would enthusiastically bring new-to-Krishna friends to experience the bliss of Saranagati and would rouse our new friend to bring them to Mangal arati in Banbihari Mandir, Yamuna and Dina Prabhus were expert at making those new-to-Krishna friends feel right at home. With what appeared as great ease, but abundant grace and dedication, they would create a mood in which Krishna was completely attainable and relishable.

We could see the expertise they exemplified for people stepping into a temple for the first time and long -tanding soldiers of Lord Caitanya alike, time and time again. By her behavior, we could understand that internally, she was never apart from her beloved Srila Prabhupada, and her eagerness, along with that of our dear Dinatarine Prabhu, was lovingly imparted on all they would meet.

For this, and so much more, I am eternally grateful.

Koti Dandavats. Yamuna Devi. Sweet Krishna dreams…..

Lalita devi dasi

I feel so blessed and grateful for the time I was able to associate with Jamuna, and am glad for this  opportunity to share a couple of personal memories I have of her.

A few days after my returning from a short trip to Vancouver, a devotee arrived at my door with an informal invitation from Jamuna to join her for breakfast.  Wow!  I was surprised!  I was just feeling a little hungry and thinking of having something to eat.  Now, by Krishna’s arrangement, here was a chance to visit Jamuna, and share breakfast with her too!  So, off we went!  In the back of my mind though, I was wondering, “Why me?”  Did she want to speak to me about something?  Perhaps she had a request to make?  It didn’t matter, whatever her reason, I was glad to accommodate the best I could.  It felt wonderful that I could be with Jamuna in this way, to associate with her informally, and perhaps render some service.  It was Jamuna after all!

When I arrived, she warmly greeted me with a hug and invited me into her home (or ashram as she referred to it) for a breakfast of buckwheat pancakes and fruit salad!

Always concerned for the welfare of others, she first inquired about my health (which is off due to arthritis).  Although she was not in the best health herself, she never made an issue of it—but rather smiled and inquired with kindness and concern of others’ wellbeing.  I then went over to her alter, and took a moment’s darshan with her beautiful deities, Sri Sri Radha Banabehari.  The other devotee, who was also there, showed me a long strand of Srila Prabhupadas personal japa beads which he had given to her in the early days.  As I held them to my forehead, I was thinking of how fortunate I was for receiving such mercy this morning!

Then she and Dina commenced to preparing the most delicious breakfast.  After sitting us down to honor the prasadam, she personally served us.  I was so taken by her generosity, humility, and devotional attitude.  These were traits that I would come realize were her natural makeup.  Traits that I would also like to someday deeply imbibe—following in her footsteps.  She was the perfect example.

In the following months, I would regularly attended her programs of bhajans and Caitanya Caritamrta classes which took place three nights a week, and were a hit amongst the local devotees. I looked forward to visiting her on those nights; the atmosphere was always very spiritually enlivening, and her calm, humble and welcoming demeanor always made me feel at home.  I miss those times being with her, and now because she has left us, the week feels a little void in her absence.

Jamuna, I pray that I will someday be able to see you again, receive your loving hug, and taste your wonderful prasadam!

Lilamrta devi dasi

At Vrindavan 2013 memorial

It’s a great honour to be here and it’s a difficult thing to try to say something appropriate for such a glorious devotee as Yamuna devi  is for me.But I have been truly blessed to have her association at Saranagati because Saranagati is a very remote place and its full of all varieties of miseries coming from the elements, one’s own body and mind and other living entities. I was very shocked and surprised when I heard that Yamuna devi and Dina Tarine Prabhus would even come to Saranagati.  The fact that they did was a true blessing for all of the residents there.  Radha Banabihari ashram, which they so lovingly built for Radha Banabihari, every single part of it was truly for the pleasure of Their Lordships.    For me the life of a devotee like Yamuna devi is like an advertisement.   I heard recently that the advertisement policy is that the principle is they were to make you dissatisfied with what you have so that you want what they are presenting.  I was thinking Yamuna’s life was so glorious so full of love and dedication and all good qualities of a Vaisnava that you wanted to have that. You become dissatisfied with your own miserable state of existence and when you were in her company you felt that you could attain that and it was most desirable.

I’ve had the good fortune also of helping with the book project, transcribing Yamuna speaking her memories of her times with Prabhupada, interviewing the different devotees.  I would like to share one story that… there’s so many.  We really have a great treasure to look forward to in this wonderful book.  But it was actually an interview, she was speaking to Yadubara prabhu and they were talking about how Prabhupada would sometimes tease devotes.  Yamuna was describing how Prabhupada always teased her about how women were less intelligent.  This one time she was on a morning walk with some senior male disciples and she was the only woman.  Prabhupada started talking about how women were less intelligent. So he asked all of the men, “What do you think, is this true?”  and they said, “Oh yes, yes”.  So then he turned to Yamuna and he said, “What do you think Yamuna?” and she said “Oh yes Prabhupada, definitely.”  Then he said to her, he said, “But there is no woman in you, you are devotee.”  But for myself, being in a woman’s body I am very grateful that Yamuna was in a woman’s body because I had an opportunity to associate with her and I am forever indebted to the Lord and Srila Prabhupada for that opportunity.  Yamuna devi ki jaya!

Milkmaid Memories

Reading from CC: Unless one is favoured by a pure devotee, one cannot attain the platform of devotional service. To say nothing of Krsna bhakti, one cannot even be relieved from the bondage of material existence.  Without taking upon one’s head the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee, a mahajana or mahatma, one cannot attain devotional service.  Devotional service is not possible to attain simply by undergoing severe austerities and penances, by gorgeously worshipping the Deity, or by strictly following the rules and regulations of the sanyasa or grhastha order. Nor is it attained by studying the vedas, by submerging oneself in water or exposing oneself to fire or scorching sunlight.

Kar:  So devotional service is only attained by the association of special devotees.

Kalindi:  I never knew that.

Radha:  It makes sense, because otherwise you wouldn’t even know what devotional service is.

Kar:  The idea is that it is a descending process.  No matter what we think we can do on our own, without help, is not enough.

And it only comes when through your efforts, you convince Krsna and the – our guardian angels basically – the previous acaryas, and all of Krsna’s associates, that we are worthy of some help.  Some interference in your maya cycle.  And then they send a special devotee.  So in our case, whatever we did in our past lives and all that, gave us this opportunity where Krsna arranged that we would be in connection with special devotees.

So that is why I wanted to share that with you, so that you understand the value of it.  It is not just – like we read – it is like out of so many logs – one may reach the shore.

So we reached the shore, after millions of years.  So it is special. It was a special ten years that you had with Yamuna and Dina, so let us capture what we can tonight, so that we may be able to relish this for the rest of our lives.

(The girls  recall choosing their name, and making the milkmaid shirts )

Kava: I remember the first time we stayed overnight. We were invited to see some sort of drama they got from India.  We must have been ten or eleven. Yamuna made these different types of popcorn, and we watched this drama, it was really well done.

We went to sleep really early, and we couldn’t sleep, but they woke us up at three, so we could all shower.

In their bathroom, they were so simple with the bucket, and they only used a certain amount of hot water.  I didn’t know how they lived here, until that day.  How they woke up, how they took bath. They were so clean and simple.  So standardized.  How much water they used. How much hot water they used. How they used it.

Rasa:  The whole time, Yamuna was walking around and singing.

Kava:  It was so mystical.

Rasa:  With only these Christmas lights on.

Radha:  I remember the one time I slept over with you guys.    I slept right there, and I could hear Yamuna sleeping.  The minute she woke up she started singing.

Gopal:  I remember one of the things that really binded us was doing that Govardhana Parkirama. We made all the houses, we had the map on the wall.

Rasa:  Do you remember the meditation we did?  We all sat and they told the story about a cottage in the forest where Radharani would wait for Krsna – a special cottage made by Lalita, describing the flowers and the smells and the animals.

Kalindi:  She also described the dresses of the gopis – Lalita was stars, …. Describing a palace in the water.

Rasa:  Then we all got to make  a feast in our minds.

Radha:  Yamuna still did that. Right till the very end.  Like for Gaura Purnima, 2011, she wasn’t even living here.  We sent out an email, what was everyone going to make for Gaura Purnima.  Yamuna responds:  mentally offering:  All these amazing preps.

Rasa:  This last time, Radha Banabehari’s Anniversary, she sent the most amazing list of offerings for Them.

Gopal:  That was the first time I ever even thought about being able to offer service to the Deities in the mind.

Radha:  I remember the festival for Gopastami.  We all dressed up like cowherd boys. We made cow dung cows.  The cow dung smelled like lavender oil.  Yamuna put all this essential oil in it, and it didn’t smell like cow dung at all. We made the cow dung cows, put them around the tulasi, and then we all sang “Govinda jaya jaya, Gopal jaya jaya” and circumambulated.  Then we all brought prasadam and had a picnic.

Rasa:  Remember the Anniversary themes – the flower balls, the bees, and lanterns.

Kalindi:  I remember, for my sixteenth birthday, Yamuna told everybody go outside, me to stand in the middle, they picked tons of rose petals, sang happy birthday to me, and threw flower petals all over me.  And then she got everyone to say something nice about me.

Gopal:  I feel like for me it was always super hard for me just sitting there and focusing on the bhajans.  My attention would always slip away.  Until that year when Haribhakti taught us to play kartalas and mrdnga. Then Kar asked me to play kartalas.  I was nervous the first time, I remember Kar telling me to play as quietly as you can, because we want to hear the voices more than the actual instruments.  I remember looking at Kar, like, “Am I doing okay?” I remember Kava you played mrdnga too. And after Yamuna and Dina were the most encouraging.  “Wow, you were just sizzling tonight. You were so good!  Gopal, Kava – SZZZZ! “  And you felt so good.

Rasa:  Yamuna and Dina giving you that service is something that kept you here. That really bound you to them.

Kava:  I was really regretting that in the beginning. I really wanted to sing, I didn’t want to play the mrdnga.  But I knew that this was a service.  At first I didn’t want to do it at all. I just felt that I wasn’t good enough. That I couldn’t sing. That I would ruin it. I wouldn’t please anybody.  But Yamuna and Dina encouraged me so much. I realized that it is not the instruments that matter. It is the voices.  For for me, you know, the way this whole new age gurukuli thing – it is really about the instruments – Alshave good kirtan is if the people are praying to Krsna.  And they taught us that really young, so we could understand that really strongly.

Gopal:  Also, I feel that because we got that opportunity – it put me on a different level of understanding of how to actually please by playing instruments. Not just for yourself.  Because it never was for yourself, because you were supposed to play quietly.  Just to keep it going. I remember just thinking in my head, “Please Radha Banabehari, please Krsna Balarama, please just help me play for the pleasure of the devotees, and for You. Nothing else.

Kava:  Me too.

Gopal:  Pray every time, just pray.  Just please. We were given such a wonderful opportunity, and I didn’t want to mess it up at all. I feel that because of that, because Yamuna and Dina were so encouraging, but encouraging in such a way that you didn’t feel like puffed up.  You just felt that you were making them happy. What I am doing is making them happy. And now, it has helped my mood in kirtan so much more.  I felt like if I didn’t do that, I would have been like just gone in my pride.  But now, just remembering of how they so much encouraged and I just so much wanted to please them.

Kava:  They taught us that, to think like that. Before they even encouraged us. So when they did encourage us, we knew how to take that encouragement.

Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Yamuna’s past the entire years when we were growing up. I didn’t know that she did this and did that, and that everyone knew her. She played harmonium and mrdnga and she did that with the Beatles.

It was just “our Yamuna”.

Chaya:  I didn’t even realize that it was Yamuna singing the Govindam prayers for a long time.

Haripriya:  Just imagine how many times that is heard all over the world.  Every day. Radha Syamasundara are always hearing her voice.  Imagine what kind of personality she must have been.  To sing for Radha and Krsna every day.

Bhava:  Basically it was like, Radha and Krsna said, “I want this devotee to sing for me every day.  In every temple.”

Kalindi:  You would never know.

Rasa:  The first time it became crystal clear to me that Yamuna was someone else other than just Yamuna to us, was that Balarama festival that we had here….(It was like I realized that other people had travelled so far to come and meet with her.  She was Yamuna Prabhu – not just Yamuna, like she was to us.)

Bhava:  I remember coming to chant japa with her early in the morning, she would be so excited about chanting japa that you would be totally into chanting japa, first thing in the morning. And she would tell you so many special things about her that made it sound so special.  You were like, “This is awesome.”  I used to not want to chant japa, and now I am super into it.

Rasa:  I remember when the bus tour came here, and everyone was crowded in here, and chanting japa, kind of quietly.  Then Yamuna said, ‘Louder!” And the volume got jacked up totally.

Chaya:  Yamuna walks around the house and she does sings, always singing, you just hear this voice surrounding you, everywhere she goes.

Kava: It was something that she loved to do. It wasn’t like, okay, now I have to chant my rounds.

Gopal: I remember when Yamuna was getting really sick here, and the last kirtan we had with her.

Kalindi:  That was the most intense kirtan we ever had.

Kava:  We knew something was going to change.

Rasa:  I remember crying so hard.

Chaya:  I remember that Kar would give us a little update on Yamuna every day  – today they did this – and we would be like, “Okay, she is going to be good.”  Like everyday.

Radha:  Okay let’s go back to the Bhaktivinode bhajans.

Kalindi:  I remember when we would read them, every bhajan was better than the next one. Even though they were so heavy.  Certain songs were so intense. I never felt that way about them, but I would always just think, this is such a nice bhajan.  Just his poetry, the way he wrote, his messages were somehow they were able to complete satisfy and pacify my mind, even though it was very intense words.  Somehow I would always come out of bhajans, completely at peace with everything. Completely blissed out.  When we were singing, as soon as the Hare Krsna part would come, Yamuna would be like, “Hari bol! Gauranga! Krsna Krsna!”  Always call out different things.  Like now, whenever I call out in kirtan, I remember Yamuna.

They were so nice.  Now, whenever my mind is the most disturbed about everything in the world, I always go to Bhaktivinode’s bhajans, and read just one translation, and it brings me back to such a happy, peaceful place, it soothes my mind from all it’s troubles.  It is so nice.

Kava:  In the beginning it was definitely very difficult.  I could not focus, and I was really impatient for it to be over.  But then gradually it was just like this taste that you were unaware of, and still I am unaware of it.  But for some reason I kept coming back. And I didn’t really know why, I didn’t know if it was because my parents were pushing me, but now when I look back, it was Yamuna and Dina’s encouragement for us to keep coming back. To keep trying.  There is something that we are not feeling that we could try tasting.  Even though I don’t remember the words or the books, because I was concentrating on the mrdnga, because I was so conscious about it. But I remember the humility of what he spoke was so humble it would almost difficult to understand that it could be real.   How could a person actually feel that humble and mean it?  But as you went on, you realized that it was, and that Yamuna and Dina appreciated that and that gave me the desire to try so hard in my life time to understand the importance of humility and to appreciate other vaisnavas because that would bring you humility.  Basically, I felt I learned a lifetime of lessons, just from singing the Bhaktivinode bhajans. I don’t know the lessons – I can’t put words to it, but I have a strong feeling of it, and that strong foundation from Bhaktivinode Thakura, that is so strong that I feel that wherever I am in my life, I will be able to go back to this feeling and remember it, and be able to continue my Krsna consciousness, from that feeling.  It just completely opened my eyes to Krsna consciousness, and humility and patience and it also showed me the importance of knowing our acaryas.  I am so attached to Bhaktivinode Thakura now.

I think the bhajans taught us all how to pray. How to be in a prayerful mood. How to pray to Lord Krsna.  I actually didn’t know how to pray.

Gopal: I remember the mood, that Bhaktivinode was always praying to Krsna, “Just please help me, I am so fallen, but please help me, give me your mercy.” Now it seems that I have a personal relationship with him.  You didn’t focus on that, but it kind of just seeped in, when you see it you have such a loving feeling when you actually think of him.  Through the Bhaktivinode bhajans, that built our connection with Yamuna and Dina, and with Bhaktivinode and Krsna. We wouldn’t have been able to do these bhajans without them. It wouldn’t have. We would have had no taste. And somehow we had that taste and it is because of them, and it is because of them Krsna was able to connect with us, I feel like. Even when you just go to sleep at night, and you miss Yamuna so much, and just knowing that she is out there, and she is waiting for us. We just have to pass this time and  soon we will be just be with her again.  That feeling is there because we shared so much with her, through Bhaktivinode bhajans. Through time spent with her, her instructions, her love and care, as well as Dina’s. I felt like Krsna told her what each of us needed to help us.  To help each of us grow in Krsna consciousness.    It kind of overwhelms me. It makes you want to do it all over again. Be in this mind state and relive it again, and write it all down, and record it all.

Radha:  I wrote an email to Yamuna and said, “You know I feel like I always take your association for granted, I wish I could remember more.”  And she writes back, “Dina and I never take your association for granted. We treasure every minute we spend with you.”

Gopal:  Just like when we went to visit Dina.  Dina was always saying, “How can I serve you?”  When I hear that, it moves my heart to hear her say that, for we are the ones who should be asking, ‘How can we serve you?”  It is just the sweetest mood.

Kalindi: In Eckachakra we were at the japa retreat and the instructor was saying  that one cannot get love from the object itself. You have to be in the association of someone who loves that object. So the holy name, it is very difficult to have this love for the holy name, or appreciation or any desire for it on your own. It is almost impossible. But if you have the association of someone who has a strong desire and love for it, it is almost instantaneous.  It is contagious, it goes within you. So, Yamuna and Dina had such an intense love for Krsna and for serving and for Prabhupada and for Bhaktivinode bhajans, it just goes inside of you, and before you even realize what is happening to you, you start to have that attachment.  That love, those feelings, even in the most minute ways, compared to them. But it was like, they felt the love for Krsna and Bhaktivinode, and that watered the little seed, and blew on that spark for us to love also.   Without their mercy, we would not be attached to Bhaktivinode bhajans or Krsna the way we are. Or Srila Prabhupda.  There is no way.  It is by Yamuna and Dina’s mercy.

Haripriya:  One thing I have been thinking a lot about lately is that we spent so many years with Yamuna and Dina.  Practically our whole lives, but in the past three years, that is when we started to realize how special that was.  I remember in the last months before she left, I would come more and more often, and that we had been taking them for granted for so long. But for that whole time, they never instructed us, that we should come more often, like that. It was like they were waiting for us, to realize on our own, and to want to come and to be eager for that association.  I felt that they were just waiting for us that whole time. And now it is so beautiful to see how everyone appreciates them so much.

We didn’t think about it so much before. That is when the vaisnavas leave, that is when you realize how special they are. And it is like I always feel with Bhaktivinode bhajans that Yamuna was so connected to Bhaktivinode Thakura.  It was actually like he was living. For her Bhaktivinode Thakura was living and breathing. And she wanted us to realize that – the vaisnavas never die – and she was always with Prabhupada.  What we have to understand now is that Yamuna hasn’t actually left us. She is actually with us now, as we speak. At this very minute.

When she was talking about Prabhupada, she was with Srila Prabhupada. It was like heart to heart. She transferred Srila Prabhupada to our hearts.  That is why it is so clear to us.  She transmitted that knowedge unto us, and now we have to imbibe Yamuna’s mood, just like she imbibed Prabhupada’s mood. She shared the love that Prabhupada shared with her. And then she gave us that love.  Prabhupada’s spiritual master gave him that taste, and he passed it down to Yamuna, and to all of his disciples. And then she passed it to us. And that was her greatest gift. And now it is our turn to pass it on.  But it is like that is when we actually realize how special it was. When she leaves.

There is no greater gift.  Like our last trip to Vrndavana. That was her last gift to us.  She would always tell us “I will take you to Vrndavana”.  We would have never, all of us gone to India if it wasn’t just the way it happened.  That was her gift to us.  She kept her word.

Kalindi:  We were totally there with her, during her whole memorial service. We were there with her in Vrndavana.

Haripriya:  I was thinking, Krsna consciousness is not something, so easy to comprehend.  It is so easy to think of things in a material perspective. This is how it is, you have to see it and then it is real.  In the spiritual world, souls are always connected.  Like Yamuna is not here, but her presence is here, and that is a spiritual relationship that never ends.  It is so hard to understand that.  I was thinking like Yamuna is actually watching over us, and the more we try to remember and appreciate her and imbibe her mood, the more she will be pleased.

I was regretting so much, after she left, we had so many opportunities to come here, like we were the closest neighbor, every day we could have been here, recorded her, everything, and it is all gone, it is over.  But we still have that opportunity to try to please her. And this is our greatest chance, to pass this on, because this is what she wanted.  That opportunity never ends.  Just like she was trying to please Srila Prabhupada by giving us what he gave her.

Radha:  This is the first place that I have ever been to where if I see a flower or a leaf, I immediately think of the Deities. You look at the roses and you immediately get reminded of Krsna. You see the peonies and you get reminded of them being on the altar. Every single thing here was used for the Deities.  Even the herbs in the garden.

Kalindi:  Like when we were coming here, I was thinking, instantly, I have to bring a flower for the Deities. That never leaves you. She taught us that whenever you go to see Krsna, especially here, you bring something to Him.  Those things are going to come up in our lives, and we are going to realize that, “Oh this Yamuna taught me..”  We don’t even know how much we actually learned from her and Dina.  We don’t even know until that moment comes, when you go to pick a flower for Krsna, and it is just there, inside of your heart. You pick a flower for Krsna. It is so amazing.

Narayani devi dasi

A few years ago on what I believe was Srila Prabhupada’s Appearance day, we were invited to Yamuna’s and Dinatarine’s (Radha Banabeharis Asrama)  to honour this special day.  We all had the opportunity to participate in cooking a feast in Srila Prabhupada’s original multi tiered cooker.  We cooked dahl, rice and subji, then Yamuna offered it.  Then we all honoured prasadam together.  It was wonderful.  Yamuna told us how Srila Prabhupada liked that all of the cooking pots be scrubbed and clean and shiny.  So now when I cook, then do the dishes, I am always reminded of this event and I meditate on pleasing Srila Prabhupada by keeping my cooking pots sparkly and shiny clean!

#2  I remember Yamuna Devi as being very warm and affectionate.  She was always generously distributing mercy to others, sharing her love, her stories and her amazing steadiness in her devotion to Srila Prabhupada and her beloved Lordships.  Radha Banabehariji. She was always creating and offering to us so many opportunities to perform devotional service.

#3  Yamuna taught us the importance of cultivating a proper devotional mood in order to cook nicely prepared bhoga for offering to the Lord.

One day, when my husband Sthanur and I dropped by her house, she offered some of Radha Banabehari’s maha prasadam.  It was the most incredible sweet I have ever tasted! I can only describe it as a candied cluster of jellied rose petals with crushed nuts.  It as absolutely heavenly!  I’ve never tasted anything like it before or since, they were a one of a kind sweet!  She told me the recipe, and I wish I could remember it.

She showed how creativity for Krsna knows no bounds and that her love and devotion was present in her cooking, it could be tasted!

#4  Whenever you would visit her asrama Yamuna would always bring you right up to Radha Banabehari’s altar to be sure that you would receive Their mercy.

Yamuna was always creating fresh new ways to serve the Lord.  Our Saranagati Parrot festival was the highlight.  When Yamuna and Dinatarine went to India, they had cloth made for diety outfits for most of the valley’s dieties.  The cloth was blue and yellow with parrots and other designs delicately hand painted on them.  Those of us who didn’t get the hand painted material improvised with blue and yellow cloth.  The result of everyone’s efforts was amazing!

At the festival, everyone was in nine groups each of which did a creative presentation on one of the nine processes of bhakti.  The parrot festival lasted all day long.  The temple was beautifully decored in an  autumn motif.  Almost every single diety in the valley was present and it was overwhelming yet wonderful sight. The presence of all of the valley dieties was a powerful force.  Yamuna introduced each diety individually and gave a brief history of each one, where They came from and how many years They were worshipped.  When she calculated the combined years of worship it tallied up to well over 300 years!

We sang a wonderful kirtan led by Yadubar Prabhu in which half of the room sang one part of the melody while the other half of the room simultaneously sang the other part of the melody which harmonized perfectly with the first. It was incredibily uplifting.  The parrot festival was a very special event that united the community and melted our hearts in love for Krsna and for each other.  It is deeply imbedded in my heart and shall never be forgotten.

#5  Yamuna was as we know, always enthusiastic about prasadam distribution opportunities at various festivals, she would orchestrate the menu and each of us would prepare our assigned preparation.  At the festivals she would often announce the preparations individually and who made them and we would express our delight for each one by clapping and cheering.

On one occasion we invited the local school board to our school for lunch.  Yamuna orchestrated the feast and the serving of the prasadam.  Each parent made a preparation. The bhoga was offered then served on her personal set of thali plates.  It was a wonderful feast and needless to say, our guest were impressed!

On another occasion we were at home when Yamuna and Dinatare drove up in their car. They were on a Valley wide pumpkin pie prasadam distribution mission.  They gave us a couple of pieces of this incredibly delicious pumpkin pie. It was just one of her many acts of kindness, generosity and mercy.

#6  I simply feel blessed to have had her associaition during the years that she lived in Saranagati Village. She was a warm hearted and elevated soul.  Her influence on our community will be felt for years to come and shall certainly never be forgotten.

Radhakunda devi dasi

When the rumor of Yamuna and Dina coming to Saranagati first started, I remember all the adults holding their breaths, most of them so excited about the prospect. I remember my mother telling us, “Did you know that Yamuna Devi might be moving to Saranagati?!, I didn’t even know who that was, even after my mother explained that she was the one that sings the Govindam prayers, who wrote the huge cookbook, finally when she said, “Yamuna is the one singing the Bhaja hu re mana, on the Hare Krsna album,” did something stir in my mind and heart. I loved the track on that album; it was the only one that I truly loved, besides Govindam. Still, I didn’t care so much, I remember asking my mother if she had ever met her before, and she said once in Gita Nagari, when she was working on her cookbook. But now she was coming here! This great and amazing devotee, that all the adults were excited and seemed a little intimidated by the prospect.

I remember seeing her and Dina for the first time at Kulashakar’s temple. They were the first or one of the first ladies I had ever seen wearing white, and I had no idea who they were. I don’t remember if there was a welcoming or anything at that feast, I just know I didn’t know who they were that whole time, until much later. I remember standing beside Yamuna Devi in kirtan and hearing her sing. I had never in my life heard any one sing so low! They lived in Ashcroft for a while so I don’t remember much of them after that. I was actually quite shy and a little intimidated by them when they first came, they seemed like such serious advanced devotees, and I was just a silly teenager, but I remember wanting to have a closer relationship with them. Once when Kuva was here at my house, he was telling us girls about how lucky we were to have Yamuna Devi be our next door neighbor, how we should be banging down the door and begging to do some service there, we should be there all the time. I remember telling him that,” those kinds of relationships don’t happen overnight, it takes a little time but they will happen, and they are usually the kind that are deep and meaningful”. That was my hope at the time, I was too shy to just impose myself on them then, although I did want to be there and learn from them. Now I know that those kinds of relationships can and do happen overnight, just not with me.

The next thing that I remember is when they were planning their ashram, because they asked Jai, who was the surveyor at the time to please survey their land so that they knew exactly where the North, East, West, South co-ordinates were because it was really important for their Vastu design. Jai asked me to help him so we went out to where their land was and with a really old-fashioned compass and chalk line; we tried our best to find the exact co-ordinates. I remember spending hours out there doing it over and over to get it right, because we were so nervous about it and about making sure it was as perfect as we could get it. Every time Jai would ask me, “is the line right at the mark, or is the line straight, etc.,” I would be so nervous and double check myself, always thinking that if their house was off it would be all my fault. Finally when we were done, I think it was that same day or maybe another day, Yamuna came up and told us how incredibly grateful she was for our service, that this was the first service anyone had done for Radha Banabehari Mandir and she was so impressed and pleased with our (mostly Jai’s) expertise and dedication.  That was really one of the first interactions I had with her, and I remember feeling like I had just done the most wonderful thing of my life, like if that was the only thing I had ever done, my life was useful. I remember being so impressed and swept up in her affection and sweetness, she was the first person who I felt was truly genuine and real, who actually appreciated any little service that we did for her. I remember feeling so proud of Jai and myself for being able to do some service, I think it was the first time were I felt the real value of doing service to a Vaisnava and Krsna. I also remember feeling so wonderful and special because I knew and felt that Yamuna was the kind of person who would keep us in a special place her heart just because of that tiny service that we did for her. I think it was my first glimpse into the incredible world of Vaisnava seva, although at the time I did not quite understand it all, but just felt so good about it.

I think soon after that Yamuna and Dina had their cornerstone laying ceremony, another real eye opener and culture change for me. It was at midnight as that was the most auspicious time then, and they had this huge hole dug on their land. Most of the devotees were there, and Yamuna sang the Samsara prayers in the evening (midnight) melody, then the kirtan continued as Dina placed the objects inside and the ceremony continued. I don’t remember that much more, except that we had the most amazing midnight feast all cooked by Yamuna and (Janaki?) and served by Yamuna, Janaki, and Dina. That was the first time I had met Janaki and I thought she looked just like Yamuna. I didn’t even know Yamuna had sister until then, and didn’t know that she was a devotee.

After that, as they were building their house, I just have a few memories of seeing it going up and how much Yamuna and Dina were grateful and appreciative of all the help they were getting. Bhaktirasa, from England, was here as they were doing the stucco on their walls, and he was helping them do it. Yamuna was so happy and appreciative of his help, she would always say he was the king of stucco, he could stucco faster than anyone else she had ever seen, he saved them so much time and money…by the time someone would finish a section of their house he would be done a whole wall, etc. They were like that with everyone who helped in any small way.  I remember when they were finished their house, Yamuna made a beautiful gold leaf; framed picture with everyone’s name engraved on it, who helped them with their ashram, and everyone’sname was on it. It didn’t matter how little of a service it was, she appreciated all of it and engraved the person’s name on the leaf.  I remember being amazed that someone would take that much time to show appreciation for the help she was given.

That summer that the house was being finished, Krsna Devata was up here and was teaching the young girls on the farm (Nam, KC, Bhava, Adrienne, me) dancing, and Yamuna invited us to come and plant tulips at her house. We were all super excited and went over there on a beautiful sunny morning. Dina showed us were they wanted the tulips planted, in front of their outdoor shed. The tulip bed was in the shape of a tulip, with small rocks as the border. I don’t remember the color of the tulips but I remember we had a least 3 different colors, and we planted them so that they would come up in a certain way and look like a giant tulip. After we were done, Yamuna and Dina were so happy about it, saying they couldn’t wait until they came up to see what it would look like. Yamuna told us that when they came up she would invite us over and we would have a tulip tea party. I remember being super excited about that, I never had a tea party before and having one with Yamuna and Dina sounded so fun! I couldn’t wait until those tulips came up either.  That was one special thing about Yamuna that I’ve realized over the years, whenever you would do anything with her it was never finished or over. She would never just say “thank you, Haribol, “and that was it. She would always be inviting you to do more with her, always be continuing her relationship with you. And whatever else she invited you to do with her was even more amazing and wonderful then what you had just done, so that you never wanted to stop doing things for her or with her. Each experience just got better and better. We never did have the tulip tea party, but she never gave up on trying to connect with us, to bring us closer to Krsna.

In the winter or fall, Yamuna invited us (the youth of Saranagati) to her ashram once a week to do singing lessons with her. She had printed out for each of us, and there were about 7 or 8 of us, this thick booklet of exercises and lessons on how to improve your vocals and singing power. It was never like she was teaching us; she was just inviting us to learn with her. I remember marveling at how she would act like she didn’t know a thing about singing, and how much she more she needed to know, and she was the most incredible singer I had ever known!  We would sit on mats on the floor, in a semi-circle in the temple room. Yamuna would always be greeting us warmly, grabbing our hands, patting the mat beside her to sit down. Then we would go through the lessons and exercises together, making the funny sounds that they asked and laughing about them. Yamuna would always have funny comments about them. Often she would use the maha mantra to do the exercises with. I remember saying “Rama Rama, or Krsna Krsna” in so many different ways and styles. Afterwards she would have us do kirtan together, round-robin style, and we all would sing, regardless of how nervous we were. I remember she would be commenting on how beautiful Nam’s voice was, or KC’s or others.  I remember for one retreat she had our little group perform a bhajan with her. I remember sitting beside her and playing her bell chimes, and feeling so wonderful.


 For Vrindavan 2013 Memorial

Dear devotees, I feel truly honored and grateful to be given the chance to speak today. To have had the association of a Vaisnavi like Yamun devi, is an incredible fortune, a priceless gift,  actually it is something that rarely happens in this world. Yet I stand here today, haven been given this gift, not by anything that I have ever done, or by any possible good qualities that I may have, or really by any sort of good karma. I am here only because of causeless mercy, by the mercy and compassion of two very loving Vaisnavis. I simply had the good fortune to be there at the right time and at the right place. But I am not the only youth to have received the flood of love and mercy from Yamuna Devi, she showered it on anyone who came around her. And we were all touched, all moved by it in our own ways.

When Yamuna and Dinatarine Prabhus first came to Saranagati, we were only 15 or 16 years old, only vaguely interested in serious devotional practices. Yet in a very short time Yamuna became our close mentor, our aunty who always grabbed our hands and pulled us close to see how beautiful the deities were.  We actually never knew Yamuna as the one who sang the Govindam prayers, or the one who wrote the amazing cookbook, or the one who started so many temples around the world. She was simply our Yamuna. We had heard about all that before she came, but at that age we weren’t so interested in reputations, we only saw what someone presented to us. And she never presented that to us. She was always the totally dedicated, enthusiastic, 100% committed loving devotee of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha Banabehari. And that is what we saw and were attracted to. We saw someone who really felt the joy of Krsna Consciousness, not only felt it but bubbled over and poured it on anyone and everyone. Her enthusiasim was something that would sweep up the most reluctant and convince them that this process was the most sublime. She would have us, young teenagers, eagerly wake up at 4:30 am, just to go chant japa with her. And how excited we would be to do that! We were often told before that we should chant japa, but this was different. This was real. Her love for the Holy Name was something so real, so deep, it didn’t matter if it was doing kirtan, or doing japa, or reading the Bhagavatam, they were all equally relishable to her.  Every aspect of Krsna Consciousness was truly enjoyable to her, she would dive into everything as deeply and keep it very honest and real. Nothing was superficial or external for her, and she wouldn’t let us stay on those levels either. I remember my sister often telling me before we would go over to see Yamuna devi, “ We better wake up our consciousness, better start thinking deeply about stuff right now, because Yamuna is going to ask us those questions.” And she always would, “ What does this mean to you? How does this philosophy apply to your life? What realizations have you gotten from this?” It didn’t matter that we only 15-16 years old, and our realizations so simple,  she would help us go deeper, make real connections, and actually taste the sweetness of sincerity, of real Krsna Consciousness.

But perhaps one of her greatest gifts to us, the younger generation, was the purity, the power of unadulterated Krsna Consciousness. She would never water anything down for us, never told us it is okay that not  to chant japa, that it is okay if you can’t follow the four regs. She would give us the highest purest Krsna Consciousness, as deep as it was, as difficult as it seemed to us at sometimes.  We would start every Bhagavatam class with a section out of Amrta Vani, Srila Bhaktisiddanta’s book, and the philosophy was so strong, yet she was never afraid that we would be turned away by it. Rather she would ask us how we felt about it, and if we couldn’t understand it, or couldn’t relate with it that was alright, but it was there, it was the real thing, and we knew it as something to aspire for, something to admire and take pride in our lineage.  This purity touched us more than anything. We knew we were being given the highest gem, we were not cheated in anyway. Yet despite being so fixed and focused on the process herself, she never told us we “had” to do this or that, rather she invited us to come with her. Come taste the bliss of Krsna Consciousness with her, and whenever we expressed appreciation, or had some realization, she would be so excited so happy for us, “ Yes! Yes! Isn’t this the most wonderful?!”. And we would feel it, know so deep in our hearts that what we were tasting was the real thing. This purity is really what convinced us that we could follow the process of Krsna Consciousness and if we did then we would see the results, we would taste the sweetness like Yamuna devi. Despite everything else we might see in this world, we knew that if we followed the process of Krsna Consciouness like Yamuna devi did, we would go Back home back to Godhead without a doubt.

It is impossible to express enough gratitude for everything that Yamuna devi gave me. Actually it is impossible because I do not even know and understand yet the real depth of what she has given, of how priceless it actually is, how then can I appreciate and feel the proper gratitude for it. I can only pray that the shower of mercy that she gave will not be wasted on someone like me.

I have only mentioned Yamuna throughout my talk, because today is her memorial day. But the reality is that it wasn’t just Yamuna Devi to us, it was always Yamuna and Dina, her lifetime companion.  We never even thought of them separately, they were both our mentors, best friends, dearest aunties, and most treasured spiritual guides. Most of our memories are blurred by the fact that we can’t even really remember which of them it was that said this, or did that. So our appreciation, gratitude, and deepest love is for them both

Rasa Mandala devi dasi

At 2012 Los Angeles Tribute

Yamuna once said that she classified Srila Prabhupada’s life like the Caitanya Caritamrita, with Adi, Madya and Antya lila’s; we would separate Yamuna’s life into two parts; living bhakti and giving bhakti.

When Srila Prabhupada was here she devoted her life to him and his mission. She eagerly delved into learning Krsna consciousness and was an integral and influential part of the growth of the international society for Krsna consciousness. For those years she lived bhakti, but so many have already shared on those years, all of those she worked with and preached with spoke on her time during the years with Srila Prabhupada.  Her life after he left the planet, however, is rarely thought of, but it is just as important, if not more, as her time spent being a leading force in ISKCON. When he left, she not only lived bhakti, but she gave bhakti.
Yamuna and Dinatarini lived in Saranagati Village in Canada, for as long as I can remember; there was hardly a time I recall that their ashrama wasn’t there, that I wouldn’t go to their home for this program or that event. I was a fortunate recipient of this period in her life where she gave, and gave and gave bhakti unconditionally, where she was no longer actively participating in opening temples and preaching tirelessly, but when she enthusiastically poured her love for Krsna into everyone’s heart without hesitation, without judgment, unreservedly, to every blessed soul who came into her association.

The moment our lives became intertwined with Yamuna’s was the day we became the Banabehari Milk Maids. I can’t recall why or how we came to the decision to make this group, but one fateful day, five girls ranging between nine and eleven years old gathered at Yamuna and Dinatarini’s ashrama to change their lives. We sat around the table and brainstormed for an hour or so for a name and logo for this group of young girls, and together we came up with the name Banabehari Milk Maids, with the picture of a backwards cow looking at you, her tail knocking over a pail of milk and a stool beside her. That day, so many years ago, we made T-shirts with Yamuna, but unwittingly, we also created a bond, a relationship, that went deeper than we could perceive. From then on Yamuna became our teacher, our friend, our second mother, but most importantly, our spiritual strength and guide.
As a teacher, Yamuna taught us many things, ranging from calligraphy to building paper houses, but there were a few things we learned in her association that will forever impact our lives, the first being how to cook. As is her way, she began to teach us to cook before we ever actually cooked with her.  We would come over for this or that project and stay for lunch, or she would simply invited us for prasadam, and during these times she instructed us without our knowledge. When she brought out a dish, she would set it on the table and sit down with us, watching us eat before she ever touched her plate. We would taste her Krsna Prasada and exclaim over how delicious it was, and as often as not she would tell us “Well, I just whipped this up, never made something like it before.” She would sometimes ask us what we tasted, to close our eyes and tell her what we thought she spiced it with or what secret ingredient she added. When we got it right she would be so excited and eagerly take our hand and say “Yes! Yes yes yes, you got it!”, and when we didn’t she would chuckle and say “Nooooooo” and then whisper to us what it was. Often, she would close her eyes and without provocation, and without hesitation, she would recite every ingredient, slowly and precisely, and tell us how she made it. When she ate with us she would taste her dish and then tell us what it needed to be improved. “A little more salt here,” or “A dollop of sour cream I think would torque this up a little.” Every time we would all enthusiastically agree. She was so meticulous in her cooking, and yet at the same time she was adventurous and daring “Do we dare put some amchur powder in here? Yup, I think so, what do you think girls?” Cooking with her was always so much fun, and she was such a wealth of knowledge, she always had so much to tell us.

It was with this light instruction that she began to teach us to cook for Krsna, straight from Srila Prabhupada.

When we began to have cooking classes with her, she would always make it so entertaining and enjoyable. We would first chant our om ajnana prayers, always that first, before beginning. She started very, very simple, with simply wonderfuls. You might think there is not much to learn from that, but no, with just simply wonderfuls she could bring about important things to learn. We made several kinds, lemon, ginger, carob, vanilla, orange…she taught us how to analyze the right amount of substance to add to the simply wonderfuls according to the power of their taste, less orange and ginger, yet more lemon, so they wouldn’t overpower the rest of the sweet ball. She would intersperse the cooking sometimes with questions, “what is the most important tool in the kitchen girls?” and we usually didn’t know the answer. “Your hands. Your hands are the most important tool in the kitchen. They can kneed and mix and chop, but most importantly they can feel; they can feel the consistency of this, the heat or coolness of that, the texture of this.”

At the end of every class she would sit down with us and we would hold hands and offer our preparation, and then she would hand out a bit to each of us and tell us to taste. We would go around the table and say what we thought it tasted like, what we thought it needed more or less of, and what we could do the next time. She was so supportive of what we said, so encouraging, and enthusiastically agreed with all of us.

We never had the opportunity to learn to cook complicated dishes with her, but that wasn’t so important. She taught with sweet balls the same things she might have taught with rasmalai, because that was what she was capable of. However the most important thing she stressed to us, the message she sent across to us and the thing we knew was most important to learn from cooking with her, was that we cook for Krsna. She always told us that the consciousness you are in when you are cooking will be transferred into your prasadam, and it is the intention, and consciousness of the mind, that makes prasadam prasadam. I always attributed Yamuna’s superb cooking not only to her experience, but to her consciousness when she cooked. She was always chanting, always humming, always immersed in thoughts of pleasing the lord. She never thought of pleasing herself, it was always for the pleasure of Krsna, always for him, and this was the legacy she passed on by making simply wonderfuls with us.
Another thing Yamuna instructed us in, although not extensively, was deity worship. At one time or another we came over and she had us write down and try to memorize all the pieces of cloth and jewelry worn by Radha and Krsna, in every season,  but only a few times. However, it wasn’t by classes like these that I was so fortunate as to witness Yamuna’s deity worship and learn from her, it was by serving Radha Banabehari alongside her.

In the summertime when we had no school, we would come to the morning program. We would enter the warm, cozy house, lightly glowing orange from the lights strung all the way around the house in the nook between the ceiling and the walls. Dina would be doing arotik, and Yamuna would be sitting on the far couch, facing the deities, with her chime instrument, lightly playing and singing, slowly shaking her head, her eyes closed tightly, relishing the words. We would join in, and after arotik, after she had sweetly recited the prema dvani prayers, including the “All glories to the transcendental mangal arotik devotees,” she would exclaim “Oh girls, I’m so happy to see you! You just made my day!”

Every Friday Radha Banabehari were bathed and redressed, and so after Bhagavatam class, we would all engage in service. We would often team up in pairs for each service, two of us outside on the deck making vases, two of us cleaning the altar and paraphernalia, and two of us doing whatever else Dina or Yamuna needed; bringing wood, sweeping the floors, cleaning the Blue Lotus guest cabin. It was Dina or Yamuna alone who dressed the deities. After about two hours, we would all come together with our various services, clean floors, sparkling altar, shining silver cows and peacocks, phenomenal vases, and put it all together. The deities would then be set on the altar and we would choose a theme for the week. Sometimes it was fruit or little disco balls hanging from the altar, sometimes it was the silver pond with fish and turtles and floating flower candles, sometimes it was the raked little zen sand box, or perhaps all the silver animals flocking about their lordships. We would all decorate the altar together, and then stand back and all exclaim at the sheer beauty of Radha Banabehari, surrounded by flowering vases and sweet animals. Yamuna and Dina would say every week without fail “They have NEVER looked more beautiful! I have NEVER seen them so beautiful, this is even better than last week! They just can’t look any more beautiful than this!” And Yamuna would stand in front of their altar, swaying back and forth, holding our hands, sometimes her head rested on one of our shoulders, and she would be smiling, and staring at Radha Banabehari with such love, with so much tenderness and joy, and more often than not we would all end with tears in our eyes.

When we had all looked our fill, Yamuna would chuckle and squeeze our hands, and then she would hand us all either a conchshell or a fan. Those of us with conch shells would blow them, tooting like Yamuna liked it, and we would begin to sing the Govindam Prayers. Those of us with fans fanned their lordships as we sang, and Dina would do the arotik while Yamuna would go in front of the deities with a small hand mirror, lovingly showing the deities their reflections, singing sweetly with us.

We learned from all those times serving Radha Banabehari with Yamuna and Dina that deity worship doesn’t mean you have to be changing the deities or offering the arotik; it means you serve the deities in whatever way possible. We never personally dressed Radha Banabehari, but we rendered worship all the same, simply by sweeping the floors or dusting the altar. Even though it was never spoken by Yamuna, we all knew that these services were equal, that sweeping the floors was just as pleasing to the lord as being beautifully dressed if it was done with love in the heart and the intention of pleasing him and his devotees, and we knew that if we weren’t yet qualified to render direct service to the lord, that service to his devotees was just as beneficial and just as pleasing to Krsna. And therefore, we rendered service to Yamuna and Dina, gaining as much pleasure serving them as we might Radha Banabehari.

These mornings of deity worship with Yamuna are so precious; the unspoken things we learned from these early mornings will forever be remembered. Simply by being in the association of Yamuna when she was serving her beloved deities was so incredible, her mood of service, her humble attitude, and her constant absorption in the lord was so contagious that simply by being there you wanted to serve and serve and serve and be as preoccupied with pleasing Krsna and his devotees as Yamuna always was.
Perhaps the most important thing we learned and did with Yamuna, what shaped our lives the most, what utterly molded out hearts, and where perhaps our deepest connection was with Yamuna, was kirtan. Not just kirtan, but Krsna Kirtan, as we called it. It began first many years ago, about the same time we became the Banabehari Milk maids, but it wasn’t until 2007 that we first participated in these kirtans, these Bhaktivinode Bhajans. It had been going for two years before that, with just three or four people, led by Kartamasa das. He had gone through three of Bhaktivinode’s songbooks, Saranagati, Gitavali and Kalyana Kalpa Taru, and devised a melody for every song, hundreds of songs, and lead us in chanting every single one of them. Yamuna and Dina often remarked that when they first heard him, they knew he had the potency and potential to transport them to another place with his chanting, and he did just that.

On the third year we came, and brought our parents along with us. I was twelve years old that first year. That first time we went was the year we first sang Kalyana Kalpa Taru, the first and most direct and perhaps harsh, of all Bhaktivinode’s song books. They were all named with titles like “Madness for Wealth is Ridiculous” and “Cheating Devotees are Rejectable”. This was also the first year that some of the other residents came, and Dina has so often said that “I was just so amazed to see these girls coming and sitting there every week, when even some of the older devotees had to leave, saying it was just too much to take in.” Half the truth is that we simply didn’t understand most of it, but the other half is that these songs of Bhaktivinode, these prayers he wrote that are all so beautiful, and so singularly unique, unconsciously worked on our hearts and our minds. They are so powerful and so pure, that although we hardly understood the English and couldn’t sing along with the Bengali, we could listen, and it was hearing these prayers that caused an attachment to develop within our hearts, although we did not yet recognize it.

That first summer was a bit of an ordeal, as we could not quite participate, but before we knew it we were back the next year to sing Saranagati. For four years Kartamasa led us in chanting these songs of Bhaktivinode, at first just in the summers, but then all year round when Kartamasa and his wife Radha Kunda moved to Saranagati. Yamuna often described singing these bhajans as “transporting” because that is exactly what they did; they transported you to a place where there was no time, there was no recollection of material problems, there was nothing but the transcendental sounds that entered your ears and filled your heart with an inexplicable feeling of completeness, with an understanding that this is where you belong, not out there, trying to resist maya’s snares and temptations, but here, where you can leave the material world behind as you step through the door and surrender to Bhaktivinode’s prayers, where you can give your material self up and become an entirely different  person; someone who sings with all their heart to Krsna with no reserves or hesitations. When we sang these prayers of Bhaktivinode, the obstacles between ourselves and our Krsna consciousness dissolved, there was nothing  but the immersion into hearing and chanting, all of us begging and praying to Krsna through Bhaktivinode. Every time we began an evening of these prayers, it was like coming home, like you had finally found that place, that inconceivable place, where you think “Yes, finally, this is where I am meant to be, this is home, this is the spiritual world.” Here or there you would hear Yamuna’s voice rise or fall, flooded with emotion, and at those moments you would strain your ears to listen, to catch a glimpse of what pure chanting sounds like, to hear that potent sound coming from within her and treasure it, aspire to it, because we knew, we all knew, that this was pure chanting. She would sit in her rocking chair, eyes closed, sometimes tears silently sliding down her cheeks, tapping the wompers that rested on her chest. At times she would ecstatically let out a “Krsna, Krsna,” or “Gauranga, Gaura Gaura.” We would sit and chant, and listen, capturing the mood in our hearts and minds, this mood of sweetness and quiet, personal meditation. This mood would become attributed as Yamuna’s mood. It reflected her sweet personality and her close relationship with Srila Prabhupada and the Lord, and cannot be replicated without her. Yamuna taught us, not through instruction, but through example,  how to sing and play instruments for Krsna, to keep pride and the desire for fame at bay and simply sing and play for the pleasure of the deity and the devotees. When Yamuna sang, there was not a hint of pride or vanity, not a drop of arrogance or self-satisfaction; there was only pure love for Krsna. Her emotion when she sang the holy name was tangible, it entered immediately into your heart and chased away the desire for anything but to be able to feel what she felt while chanting the holy name. We never had the chance to develop a desire for fame or pride, because from the beginning Yamuna showed us the higher taste, she showed us the real thing, and next to that powerful feeling and palpable love for the holy name, chanting for name and fame was like choosing rotten food over pristine prasadama.
Eventually, we learned how to nicely accompany the prayers ourselves with mridanga and kartals. When we began to play for the bhajans, Yamuna, simply through her method of chanting and prayerful mood, taught us that we do not play instruments to demonstrate our prowess and skill, we play only to sweetly accompany the chanting and to bring increased pleasure to the ears of lord Krsna and his devotees; that is the only reason. We did not play unless we could sing as well, because forsaking the reason for Krsna kirtan, chanting the holy names, simply for being able to play in increasingly complicated ways was unreasonable and would defeat the purpose. Simply through example, not through lengthy discussions and instruction, but merely by example, Yamuna showed us what it was to do kirtan for Krsna, to feel bliss at bringing Krsna pleasure rather than showing everyone what mantra you learned to play today.
This is something that I will be eternally grateful for. Tasting this mood of love and simplicity has marked our hearts forever, and though we can still reach for it, even though with Dina we can taste it again, there is still a gaping emptiness where your voice would rise and fall, still moments where we listen for the tapping of your wompers, still times when someone will blissfully puncture the kirtan with a “Haribol!” and we will all be reminded that it used to be your voice calling out. Dearest Yamuna, though we go on, though we struggle to still aspire to what you have shown us and allowed us to taste, the loss of your presence is agonizingly felt. Krsna kirtan will never be the same without your ecstatic remarks of “Nectar! Too much nectar!” without your protective and powerful personality presiding over these kirtans, guiding and filling us all with these inexplicable feelings that threaten to burst through our hearts and spill to every corner of every limb until you have nowhere to put it. Without you, grasping at what we had with you is so much more difficult. We pray to someday be able to feel what you felt while lovingly chanting for the lord, we pray to always live up to what you have shown us, taught us, and to always keep pride and false ego at bay and chant only for the pleasure of Krsna.
Dearest Yamuna,
There are no souls more inconceivably fortunate then ourselves. We do not know what we have done in past lives or this life to have achieved such a blessing as to have your association and guidance. The gifts you have left us, the bhakti you gave us, we will strive to give to others, to do as you did and unconditionally give and give. You had no judgment, there was no one ineligible for the bhakti you gave, everyone had access to this ever-flowing outpour of love that you bestowed. You had such an impact on the youth of our society, such a relationship, because many of us struggle with the difficulties of pride and ego, many of us are tempted or trapped by the snares of fame, but you, you have already overcome these obstacles, you are someone we can look up to, a surviving idol and proof that these things can be overcome, that it is possible to push it all away and reach for the higher taste, for Krsna. You passed no judgment on those who had made mistakes, you made no verdict on anyone, you merely embraced them without reserve no matter who they were or what they did. Your upwelling of love and compassion was so deep and pure that whoever was in your presence felt cared for and sheltered. You once said that “You need to have someone that you feel will really always protect you, and these great souls, by their very existence, they are shelters for us. We just have to find them, in more than just words, to find them, so it goes into our being and sustains us.” We had found them; in you. You were our shelter, it was you who sustained our beings. You were our first spiritual master, our guide, our strength, the fan to our flame, you lovingly cultivated the devotional creepers in all our hearts and kept the weeds at bay; you showered us with the rain of your devotion and through your care and attention our creepers budded and blossomed into love for Krsna, attachment to his holy names, and a deeply abiding affection for serving the deity and his devotees. You made the young generation feel loved and protected, gave so many of us a true taste for Krsna through your own pure and potent love. This was your legacy; you didn’t leave an imprint on the mind, but on the soul. Your ability to change someone’s life in just the hours or moments they had of your association was extraordinary. I try to express this all through these words, but really there are no words that are truly capable of describing you and your potency. When we were in your presence, the rest of the world melted away, problems became insignificant, and all the time in the world was not enough time to have with you. Your absolute and extraordinarily pure love for krsna and the devotees was so profound, and your desire to share it with one and all was so deep, that it leaked into our souls. I don’t grieve for your absence, which can only bring contentment for you because you are eternally with Radha Banabehari and your beloved Srila Prabhupada, but I grieve for myself. I grieve for the lost opportunity, because I feel I didn’t take enough advantage of your presence, because I feel I have lost the food that fed my soul and the most powerful thing that gave motivation and inspiration for progression in my spiritual life. But I have learned so much, I have been given a gift richer than anything in the world, something sought after by everyone, something so rare and exquisite, something few in the whole universe are blessed with; the association of a pure devotee, association with you.

In the afternoon
Face upturned to the sun,
alone on the balcony.
You look down on the ocean,
that vast, shifting blue that sends up a fine spray.
I don’t want to disturb you,
deep in this moment,
diving into those secret waters
that have beginning, and no end.
Eyes closed, you taste the colour,
the beauty,
the changing light.
You drink it all in with ears and eyes tuned to the divine,
to the details that escape most of us.
Such refinement in your every action,
every word drawn from that sacred depth.
I try to catch it all, with my pens and paper,
my gadgets
but I am overwhelmed, by the volume of wisdom and love,
like cupping my hands in a rain shower,
the rest falls to the thirsty ground.
Rose petals and cashews,
arcing letters on a page, pure grace,
a little piece of cheese inside the tikkis,
subtle surprises,
nuances in flavour and texture and feel.
Krsna is so real to you, so present,
the Goswamis are your dearest gurus,
all is dynamic, fascinating, thrilling –
only the thinnest of veils separates you.
With you we experience truth.
Even your wit, sometimes mercury quick,
has the snap of profound reality
You love, you love, you love,
anyone is eligible.
If there is a jewel to be found,
you find it
and polish it,
hold it to the light,
and proclaim its worth and beauty,
til we believe you
and forget that we are only reflecting your light.

Dear Yamuna, though you aren’t here on this day, you were the reason growing up here was so incredible and amazing; your very presence allowed us to grow and flourish in ways that would not have been possible without you. You gave us Krsna, you gave us the holy name, and you gave yourself to us. This is the most precious gift I could ever have received, you, your association and the fortune to have known you as a dear friend. I miss you, and wish you could be here to celebrate this day with us.

Rasamrita devi dasi

My husband and I and our son spent most of 2010 in Saranagati, Canada. A large part of why we were inspired to do that was to take advantage of the incredible devotional sanga that Yamuna and Dinatarine Prabhus facilitated. Every morning they held a full morning program in their home, which was open to the community. They simply loved to share Krishna consciousness with everyone, especially young devotees. Yamuna Prabhu held cooking classes for the youth, Deity sewing classes, Deity worship classes, and more. She showered her love and affection on them, and shared her deep love for devotional service. Every summer she and Dinatarine Prabhu held evening Bhaktivinoda Thakura bhajans at their home. Those bhajans were from another realm. The profoundly devotional and meditative mood of those melodious bhajans was indescribable. The Saranagati youth especially were addicted to those bhajans. Everything Yamuna Prabhu did was first class. She was an ocean of devotion, and an ocean of inspiration for the people who knew her and whoever simply heard of her.

Rasaraja das

I did have the blessing to have the association of Yamuna p. here in Saranagati , and it seems like you appreciated one person more , after that person did pass away . I was lucky with Vrajananda p. to help to build Radhabanabihari Mandir . One thing that did struck me from the very beginning, she never ever said “We are building my home, ” in my recollection she always said this will be the home of Radhabanabihari. I never did pay attention at this until recently, like many other special characteristics of her personality.
Every Wednesday I was looking forward to go to Radhabanabari ashram for CC and I did think I was attracted by the lectures, but after a little search in my heart the real motivation was Yamuna and Dina’s atmosphere. Just by open the door and enter in their ashram a sense of peace and calmness did enter in my heart. I really cannot explain it, even if they didn’t said much or nothing at all, I did fell very very comfortable and could stay there forever. I did remember when I was in charge as president of Saranagati Village, with all the problems and politics, my only shelter were Yamuna and Dina .
I was going there and I always did fell that they did have plenty of time, plenty of understanding, plenty of encouragement plenty of compassion, plenty of care, plenty of affection  and everything was always in relation to Krsna and how Krsna works with his own devotees.
Generally I am a practical guy not much into emotions or feelings but sometime when Yamuna did said ” we care about you ” I couldn’t stop a deep sense of belonging and deep sense of being loved , sometime was so intense that I did have to find a excuse to go ( I am sure they did know what I was doing ) It is just with two words Yamuna could open you heart and put into so much affection and love that I ever experience before and ….in my foolishness , instead of embracing it I did get scare .
Every time I was looking at her, I was wondering ” she is so famous, everybody around the world is looking to have her association and I am here with her, when I was in Italy I did hear a lot about Yamuna but I never did think that one day I would have the opportunity to have her association and do some seva.
She reminds me of Raghunath Dasa Goswami and his deep humility; she never put herself at the center of attention, she always wanted to stay in the back and listen. One time she told me that if we want to make serious advancement in K.C. we have to let go our spirit of enjoyment, when she did said that a small comment in my mind did follow, “what is wrong with have some fun in K.C.?” But Yamuna statement didn’t let go it did carved in my mind and more and more I start to realize how deep in true it was. I did know the story of Daruka but I never did see it through Yamuna eyes, she did have the power to said something very simple and already known in a seemly casual  way and transform it into something fresh  new, powerful, touching.

Visakha devi dasi

 BTG article

The Master and the Memorizer

A student of cooking learns that a cook and

a recipe tester are not the same thing.

by Visakha-devi dasi

Ten years ago when I was learning to cook, I would go into the kitchen each morning after breakfast armed with several recipes written by my teacher, Yamuna-devi dasi, take a deep breath, say some prayers to my spiritual master and Lord Krsna, and begin to test the recipes. As it turned out, the recipes weren’t the only thing tested.

Since I knew little about cooking, I was like a blank slate for Yamuna. I quickly learned from her that turmeric was a bright yellow powder that stained my apron and that mustard seeds were small, round, and black and went everywhere when I spilled them. But other things took more time to learn.

I remember intensely studying the jars of urad and moong dal, trying to tell one from the other—I was too embarrassed to ask Yamuna again which was which. Was cumin brownish-gray and fennel greenish, or was it the other way around? And then there were the measurements. How many teaspoons in a tablespoon, tablespoons in a quarter cup, ounces in a pound? Toward the end of the morning I was so dazed by the mental exertion that I generally forgot if I had salted a dish or not. By twelve o’clock both the dishes and the cook were finished.

We would make a lunch offering to Sri Sri Radha-Vanavihari, the Deities of Radha-Krsna Yamuna was worshiping, and then sit down together for lunch.

In one month I had tested almost two hundred recipes. It was an educational experience. Afterwards, however, a problem arose. When devotees heard that I had been cooking under Yamuna’s supervision, they assumed that I had become a cook; they looked on me as Yamuna’s protegee. My service took me many places, and usually, at whatever temple I visited, the devotees would assume I was an expert Vedic cook.

True, I could now tell urad from moong and cumin from fennel (fennel is greenish), but I was a recipe tester, not a cook. Give me a clear, comprehensive recipe, the ingredients, and the equipment, and I could make a reasonable facsimile of the dish. But with no recipe—watch out!

A cook, on the other hand, can take whatever ingredients and equipment are available and make a tasty, balanced meal. A cook can apply the principles and procedures of a tradition and make innovative dishes that are still in keeping with that tradition. A cook’s art is dynamic, and no matter how much she knows, she’s always keen to learn more. And she applies her expertise in unexpected and pleasing ways.

Yamuna was the master, I was the memorizer. After I left her small cottage in southern Oregon, I was called upon to make breakfast daily for a group of devotees in the Los Angeles temple. Drawing on my arsenal of Yamuna’s recipes, I astonished myself and everyone else with the results: boras, badas, wadas, upma, idlis, dosas, sabjis, puris, parathas. But I also began to lament how much time it took me each day to pick the recipes, gather the ingredients, and prepare and serve the meal.

Then, quite unexpectedly, my husband and I were asked to open a temple in Buttertown, a town in northern Malaysia. My husband was the temple president, and I—you guessed it—was the temple cook. Although I thought I followed Yamuna’s recipes just as she had taught me, the dishes never seemed to turn out quite right. But I tried my best, offered the result before our small altar, and had the pleasure of distributing krsna-prasadam to people who had never before tasted it. They appreciated it. We talked to many people about Krsna consciousness and gave them Srila Prabhupada’s books. Before long, sixty guests were attending our Sunday feast. In time we left the temple in the hands of competent Malaysian devotees and returned to our service in the United States.

It has been ten years since I’ve tested a recipe, and the challenge and excitement of those first days, when I was like a budding scientist performing important experiments in a laboratory, has faded. But I’m still benefiting from the experience. When my husband or I start feeling hungry, say around noon, I stop what I’m doing and make a full meal, ready by one. And while it cooks, I can usually even find time to do a few other things. At some point during those years, cooking for Krsna changed for me from a mind-boggling, time-consuming endeavor and became more natural—almost as natural as eating.

In my family we take simple, healthy prasadam. Kichari is one of our favorites. We also enjoy varieties of rices, dals, vegetables, salads, and breads. And when we feel we’re eating the same thing all the time, we go across the street to Yamuna’s house, because she practically never makes the same thing twice.

In Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, and Madras, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples organized huge pandals to introduce the public to Srila Prabhupada, his American and European disciples, and Krishna consciousness. On a large stage within the pandal, large marble Radha Krishna Deities would grace an altar, and for the duration of the ten-day program, every morning and evening Srila Prabhupada and his disciples would have a full temple program there. In the mornings attendance was sparse, but each evening after work, tens of thousands of local people would attend.

First there would be a full aratik ceremony for the Deities, led by Dinanatha, Acyutananda Swami, Hansdutta, or one of the other men. After that Srila Prabhupada would sing Jaya Radha Madhava and give a 45-minute discourse. And then, before the devotees distributed halva and puris to everyone, there would be a final uproarious kirtan. Prabhupada liked Yamuna to lead that kirtan as, with her encouragement, many members of the audience enthusiastically joined in chanting of the holy names of Krishna.

Yamuna excelled in leading kirtan yet was not attached to it. She did it because Srila Prabhupada asked her to. The men were eager to lead this final kirtan, and one day Yamuna, responding to their eagerness, decided to bow out.

So, the next evening after his lecture, when Srila Prabhupada picked up his kartals and gave a nod to Yamuna to begin chanting, Yamuna, who was sitting a little distance from Prabhupada, held her throat and shook her head to indicate that she wasn’t well and couldn’t lead. Although her indication was clear, Srila Prabhupada acted as though he hadn’t understood it and gave another nod for her to begin singing. Again Yamuna signaled that her throat was painful and she couldn’t possibly sing, and again Srila Prabhupada ignored her mime and signaled for her to begin.

Yamuna surrendered to Prabhupada’s desire and led a captivating kirtan, drawing many of the men and women in the audience to their feet to dance in joy.


At 2013 Vrindavan Memorial

My name is Visakha devi dasi.  Last night I was sitting with three of my betters, my superiors.

And they requested me to be servant of ceremonies today, rather than master of ceremonies, today I will be servant of ceremonies.  So in an attempt to please Yamuna devi dasi and His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and also all of you, for this morning I will be servant of ceremonies.

So I have known Yamuna devi dasi for many decades And before she began any devotional activity, with great thoughtfulness and with great devotion, she would chant the prayers that Srila Prabhupada has at the beginning of Bhagavad Gita.  So to honour her today, and she would do that with whoever was there, in unison.

So to honour her today, we will all chant those prayers perhaps we all know them.

Om ajnana timirandasya …

So thank you so much for coming to glorify the transcendental qualities and activities of our dear godsister, unalloyed servant of Prabhupada, Yamuna devi dasi.

And I want to make a point for today that Yamuna prabhu, addressed both men  and women devotees as prabhu. So we don’t mean to make a commotion or disturb anyone’s minds, but today, in her honour, because that is what she learned from Srila Prabhupada.

Once I asked her, “Did you ever hear Prabhupada address women as mataji?” And she said, “No, in all my association with Srila Prabhupada, he addressed women as prabhu.”

So please forgive us, I know this is not the standard now in Iskcon, but in her honour, today we will address the women and the men as prabhu.  Not to make a commotion, but just to honour her standard, which was the standard that she learned from Srila Prabhupada.

We will begin, when Maharaja comes, he is goig to lead us in the prayer, ye anila prema dhana, and then he will be speaking something, Radhanath Swami.

Yamuna had great love, admiration and respect for Radhanath Maharaja, from the very time that she met him, many, many years ago at the Pandal in Bombay.  The Cross Maidan Pandal in Bombay.

And over the years they kept up a very wonderful relationship and her love and admiration and respect for him grew over those years.  So we are very honoured that Maharaja has arranged his schedule, in a very difficult way for him.

Just not long ago he was in New York city, and he will be here for a day and a half, then he has to go to meetings in Bombay.  So with great sacrifice he has made this arrangement in his itinerary to be with us and honour Yamuna prabhu, and we are very grateful for that.

I first met Yamuna prabhu, when I came to Bombay in March of 1971. And at that time, I was not a devotee, in fact I was not interested in becoming a devotee. And one of my first impressions was of seeing Yamuna prabhu, when she heard Srila Prabhupada give class. Just like now, we were hearing Prabhupada give class.  The knowledge and the emotion that he had for Krsna was conveyed through his words.  And Yamuna would sit erect, and she would focus on Srila Prabhupada.  And his words entered her ears like rivers entering an ocean.  But we know that ordinarily the ocean that we are familiar with, when rivers enter it, it does not overflow.

But Yamuna prabhu, when those rivers entered her ears, and came to the ocean of her heart, unlike the material ocean, her heart overflowed.  And tears would come down from her eyes, while she was hearing Srila Prabhupada.  And I had never seen anything like that before. I had never even imagined anything like that before. And just seeing her hearing Srila Prabhupada, aroused also in me a desire to hear Srila Prabhupada. To try to hear what she was hearing, because the effect was so extraordinary.

So from the very beginning, she was a siksa guru for me, even from that time. Just observing her. And over the years that continued.  I learned from her about how to serve the spiritual master, how to apply your mind, your intelligence, whatever assets you have in his service selflessly, without material motivation.

And also in observing her hearing, one would wonder, well, what is the result of hearing with rapt attention.  Because she was in fact, a personification of rapt attention.

And I could see later on, we went, my husband and I, we came here to Vrndavana.  This is before this temple was here, before Prabhupada’s disciples were here. We were just visiting.  And Yamuna would come sometimes with her husband, Gurudas. And once when she came we met with her. And she and I sat up to our necks, in the Yamuna river, like the buffalo do.

And she would tell me about her love for Srila Prabhupada, about what she had learned from him, about how his teachings had transformed her life.  And again, I knew nothing, and I had no taste, but seeing her taste, seeing her love, so greatly impacted me.  And gave me the courage to change my life, it was so attractive.

And then after that, all of us went to Calcutta. This is now in August, 1971.And at that time, Calcutta was in a very difficult situation. There was a war, the Bangladesh war.  And Calcutta, the city was full of refugees, one million refugees.  And the devotees in the temple were having great difficulty with their relationships, with their health, with basic things like cleanliness and prasadam.   It was a very strained time.

And I observed that Yamuna, she was not so affected.  Because she had heard with such rapt attention, she was transported out of that very difficult situation.  And that again, gave me great encouragement that perhaps I could also do that. That simply by hearing our consciousness can be transformed so that we are not affected by the miseries and the suffering around us. But we are in a higher place.

This is one result from the rapt attention.  It transformed her heart. And then it transformed people around her also.

After that, there was the first Delhi Pandal. And Srila Prabhupada had Yamuna in charge of the Deity seva.  Those Deities that were worshipped there in Delhi, are now worshipped at Bhaktivedanta Manor – Radha Gokulananda.

And Prabhupada was so pleased by the way Yamuna arranged that seva.  The dresses, the outfits were gorgeous. So much so that the people were so attracted. The people that attended that pandal were so attracted by the Deities.

And Yamuna exerted herself to such an extent that she became ill.  So here again, I was learning so much.  It begins with the rapt attention, then one’s consciousness is transformed.  One is not so much affected by the inevitable miseries of this world.  One devotes oneself fully to the service of the spiritual master.
Now that she was sick. We were living in some asrama in Delhi, and there was a large walk-in closet there.  And Yamuna lay down in that walk-in closet trying to recuperate.  And once I was sitting with her.  She had put on the wall around her, just in her eyesight, black and white photographs of Srila Prabhupada. So she could remember him always.

And I was sitting with her, and to my surprise, she rolled over to offer prostrated obeisances. Because she had seen that Srila Prabhupada was coming through the women’s asrama to visit her. To see how she was.

Srila Prabhupada was reciprocating with her devotion. And she rolled over, offered her prostrated obeisances, and she said to Srila Prabhupada, “I am always thinking of you.”And Srila Prabhupada said, “And I am always thinking of you.”

And he saw where she was staying in this walk-in closet that had only a door, no windows. And he said “This is not a suitable pace for you to recover.” So he arranged another place in the asrama where she could have proper ventilation and proper care.

So because of her love for Srila Prabhupada, and her devotion, he reciprocated in such a wonderful way.  That was also a very profound experience for me.  To see the love that they shared.  It was not just that she loved him, but he loved her. And he took care of her, as he took care of all of his disciples, reciprocating with their love.

So as time went on, later on, Yamuna prabhu and her dear friend, Dinatarine prabhu, they moved to a place called Grant’s Pass, in Oregon.  And they established an asrama there.

And they started worshiping Deities there – Radha Banabehari. When Yamuna, for many years she lived here, in Vrndavana. And she was very instrumental in building this temple where we are sitting now.

And Prabhupada put her in charge of organizing the Deity seva here too. That was one of her many expertise – was this Deity seva.  So she was overseeing the creation of these Deities in Jaipur.

And when they made the small Radha Syamsundara, they made many molds of those, and she was not satisfied with many of them.  And finally two came, and she was satisfied with.  One is worshipped here, as the utsava Deity, Radha Syamsundara.  And the other, Prabhupada gave her permission that Those became her personal Deities, Radha Banabehari.

And she worshipped those Deities everyday with breathtaking expertise.  I hope that all of you get to see photographs of Them sometime, because the way that she took care of Them was exquisite, simply exquisite. In fact her whole asrama was arranged, simply for Their pleasure.

Wherever she went, including this place, Grant’s Pass, which I am going to describe, it was revolutionary clean. It was revolutionary cleanliness. And every detail was looked after.

If guests came, she made them feel so welcome. And you felt embraced in Krsna’s love, because she had so much love for her Deities, and her spiritual master.

So I went there.  I was sent there to take photographs for her cookbook, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine. And I had the good fortune of spending quite some time in Grant’s Pass. And I was overwhelmed by the devotion.  She and Dinatarine would sit and sing beautiful bhajans for the pleasure of Their Lordships, Sri Sri Radha Banabehari.  They would dress Them so wonderfully.

Later we will hear from Padmanabha Goswami, from the Radha Ramana temple. Prabhupada, when Yamuna was arranging for the Deity worship here, Srila Prabhupada instructed her, ‘You go to Radha Ramana, and you learn about Deity seva there. “

So Yamuna did that with great attention to every aspect of the Deity seva at Radha Ramana. She took extensive notes  She has notebooks today, how they were dressing the Deities, how they were serving Them, cooking for Them. The different activities of the pujaris throughout the day.  It is a thick book of notes of hers.

So she took up that same mood in the worship of her own Deities, Sri Sri Radha Banabehari. And you can feel the influence of Radha Ramana when you see Sri Sri Radha Banabehari

So I was there, photographing for the cookbook. And another one of her glories was her cooking.  Perhaps we are all familiar with her award winning cookbook, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine.  Every dish that she made was exquisite to look at, with the garnishes. And it was also exquisite to taste.  And she would present it with such love, that it was a transforming experience.

When she travelled with Srila Prabhupada in India, from time to time, we would be invited to life member’s homes.  And when Prabhupada tasted something that he was especially attracted to, he would instruct Yamuna prabhu, ‘You go and learn how this was made.”

And sometimes also Srila Prabhupada himself would teach her different recipes.  So she combined all these, into Lord Krsna’s Cuisine. Which was appreciated even by non-devotees so that it won an award

After spending some time in Grant’s Pass, she and Dinatarine decided that in the line of Srila Prabhupada, they should really try to preach Krsna consciousness.

So at that time they started travelling. They moved first to England, where they would enthuse the sankirtana devotees.  And then they moved back to America, they lived in Washington D.C., in New Vrndavana, in Florida. Always trying to give the purity and sweetness of Krsna consciousness to whomever they met.

And in those years of the 80’s, it was a time of great tumult, in our Iskcon movement.  It was tumultuous. And because they were so absorbed in Prabhupada’s service, in his knowledge and his words, Dinatarine and Yamuna prabhus were able to see the situation clearly.  Understand it clearly, and be less affected by it.  And those who came in their association also could get shelter from this tumultuous time in Iskcon’s history.

So I learned from that, that we can also, in Prabhupada’s service, and absorbed in his mood, we can take shelter of each other. When there are so many difficulties around us, as there were at that time.  It is not that we have to follow blindly.  Prabhupada did not want us to follow blindly.  He wanted us to use our intelligence in Krsna’s service. And that example was also there in Yamuna prabhu.

So we are fortunate, Radhanath Swami has now come, one so dear to Yamuna’s heart. So we will ask Maharaja please to lead us in the prayer, Ye anile prema dhana, and then to please speak something in glorification of our wonderful Godsister, wonderful devotee, Yamuna devi dasi.


At November 2013 Vrndavan Memorial


VISAKHA PRABHU:  (Obeisances)  Hare Krsna.  So I have been asked to give a little bit of the history of Yamuna Devi Dasi, in Prabhupada’s  service, for those of you who are unfamiliar with her history. So that story begins, as Yamuna Prabhu recalled it – (I have a footnote here that Yamuna, in line with Srila Prabhupada, addressed her God sisters as Prabhu.  Prabhupada addressed his female disciples as Prabhu, and Yamuna did too. So please excuse me while I address Yamuna as Prabhu.)I know today in Iskcon, that is not widely recognized.

But she tells a very dramatic story about how sometime in 1966, she was in her home in Oregon, and at that time there was a violent  storm.  She was on the porch of her home, relishing nature’s wildness, and there she saw a mailman come through the storm.  Now this is the 60’s, it is the time of hippies in America.  This mailman had long hair, and it was dripping wet, and he went up the porch to her.  And from his mail pouch he pulled out a letter addressed to her. It seemed that her letter was the only one that he had in his mail pouch.  And this letter was from her sister Jan.  Jan had gone to New York City with her boyfriend Michael was a musician. And this letter said, much to Joan (Yamuna at that time was Joan), much to Joan’s surprise, that Jan and Michael were getting married by a Swami.  And would Joan please come and attend the wedding. This was totally unexpected, but Joan took the next available flight to New York City.  And there she went to 26 Second Avenue.

And she describes it so poetically and beautifully, she saw the Swami, he was bathed in sunlight.  And it was summer so he had just this sanyasa top on.  And his skin was golden, and he was smiling radiantly.  And he welcomed her there.  She was not expecting this, she was not used to this, but she was very attracted to him.

At that time, she was following a macro-biotic diet.  The Swami, as a part of his graciousness, offered her a ball,  that was dripping in sugar water.  And she took it in her hand, not knowing quite what to do with it.  The sugar water was dripping through her fingers, and the Swami very lovingly indicated that she should eat it.  So she hadn’t had sugar for a long, long time, but nonetheless, she ate this gulabjamen.  And as we know, once you chew it, the sugar water squirts out in your mouth.  So she was having this unique experience while the Swami was observing her.

So the wedding was going to be in just the next day.  So the Swami said to Joan, what other relatives would be coming. Because as we know in India, when there is a wedding, relatives come from the entire country.  Distant relatives, close relatives, will come to celebrate the wedding. But Joan replied that she was the only relative coming. This was quite surprising for the Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  But nonetheless he requested her to help with the cooking.  And this was prophetic, because amongst all the cooks of Srila Prabhupada’s cooks, Yamuna Devi Dasi was the quintessence.  The quintessence of cooks.  So her first service was to cook with Srila Prabhupada.

And again she describes this, that while she was helping Srila Prabhupada make kachoris, Prabhupada made fourteen other preparations, by himself, in a galley kitchen for all the guests. And during this process, it was very hot, a summer in New York, she started to perspire, and she needed a break. So she said to the Swamiji, “Can I smoke a cigarette?”  And he allowed her to do that, and when she came back he said, “Now wash your hands.” And she could continue.  And that happened three times. “Could I take a break?” and “Yes, now go wash your hands.”

So he was training her from the beginning in cleanliness and he also explained to her how in this cooking, we don’t taste. We do it as a service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  So Yamuna Devi was captivated by his qualities, by his purity, by his character, his devotion.  This was a life changing event for her.

And after this wedding, Jan and Michael, who were now Janaki and Mukunda, they wanted to go to  first to India, and Prabhupada said, “That’s fine.  But why not, on your way, open a temple in San Francisco?” So they did.  And they drove from New York City to San Francisco.  And Yamuna Prabhu joined them in that car.

And when they got to San Francisco, (and this is an aspect of her history that is less known), Yamuna had taken with her the three original Bhagavatams that Prabhupada brought from India.  And she went off into the Oregon forest, by herself, to follow the rules and regulations, the four principles, and read Srimad Bhagavatam.  Because she didn’t want to become a blind follower. She didn’t want to follow because her sister was following, her friends were following. She wanted to decide for herself if this was her path in life. So for that time, in that pristine environment, she studied Srimad Bhagavatam by His Divine Grace. And she chanted Hare Krsna and she followed the four regulative principles.  And after days and days of doing this, she decided that this was how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.  And she never waivered from that decision.  Despite all the problems, the obstacles, the challenges that she faced, and there were many, many in her life in Krsna consciousness, she never waivered from that initial conviction. Based on following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, and reading his purports.

And perhaps you are familiar with the history that she and Mukunda and Janaki, and later Gurudas, and also Malati and Syamasundara, they were the pioneers of the San Fransisco Temple, which became extremely popular amongst the hippies. For prasadam, they started Rathayatra, they were worshipping Lord Jagannath under Prabhupada’s directions. And from there, Prabhupada sent those six pioneer devotees, plus Saraswati, the daughter of Syamasundara and Malati, to England.

Where they had tremendous challenges, starting the temple in England. Another story that may be less known is that first they arrived in Amsterdam, and at that time, the regulations in England were that a couple entering the country from abroad entering the country, had to have at least five hundred dollars between them.  Which was a lot at that time, between them. And at that time, those six, had five hundred dollars. So when they went to Amsterdam, they went two by two to England. And then they sent by Western Union that money back to the others. So in that way, they all got into the country. And they had no place to live. They were all living separately, just scraping by.  And Yamuna said at that time she was simply praying to Srila Prabhupada to give them guidance, to give them strength. And with great endeavor they contacted the Beatles, and that became the lightning rod from which Krsna consciousness spread.  Srila Prabhupada came, he was living in John Lennon’s Estate at first, they opened the Bury Street Temple, installed the beautiful Deities that are still being worshipped in London.

And then there was the next pioneering phase where Yamuna and Gurudasa, and Malati, Syamasundara and Saraswati came to India. They travelled with Srila Prabhupada extensively, having kirtan programs.  Very often Srila Prabhupada would ask Yamuna to lead the kirtans, he was so fond of the way that she could lead.  But also she had the ability to draw the audience into the Maha mantra.  So the audience would also be singing. That was a very important feature.  It wasn’t just a performance, but the audience was involved.

Prabhupada also had Yamuna and her husband begin the Delhi Temple.  That is an amazing story.  They were on a train, the train stopped in Delhi.  A man came on the train and said, ‘Srila Prabhupada, I really appreciate your work, all the service you are doing. I see the devotion that you are following your spiritual master.  I want to help you start a temple in Delhi. So Prabhupada had said, “Well, I have an engagement in Bombay where I am going, but Gurudas and Yamuna, you get down and start a temple in Delhi.  Like that.  It was a twenty minute stop.

So Gurudas agreed, but he said, “We can’t do it just the two of us so we need some help.”  So Prabhupada said, “Yes.”  So they picked another few people from the brahmacaris. So a few of them got down and started a temple in Delhi.  And now there are so many temples in Delhi.   So this is the fearless pioneering seva that Yamuna was doing.

Prabhupada also entrusted her and her husband Gurudas to establish the Sri Sri Krsna Balarama Temple here in Ramana Reti. And that was incredibly difficult trying to function in the very austere climate of Vrndavana.  Not knowing so well the culture, not speaking the language. So many obstacles were there. But especially we can attribute the beauty of the Deities, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama, Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara to Yamuna Devi Dasi, because she personally oversaw the carving of the Deities. Especially Radha Syamasundara.  Radharani’s face is so beautiful, and Yamuna Devi Dasi was personally working with the mukut walla in Jaipur to make sure that She was perfect in every aspect.

And then of course, every morning throughout all the temples that Prabhupada established, we hear Yamuna as the lead singer in the Govindam prayers.  So these are just a few tastes of how she contributed to the mission of her spiritual master. And how we are all indebted to her.  And I can’t stop there really because it is only the beginning.

Yamuna went on to make it her special prerogative and special desire to inspire the youth of Iskcon.  She saw that the youth are the future. So we will be hearing from some of these youth and actually it is the youth who have arranged this today. So we can experience how her inspiration is living on through the special care that she took of the young people in Prabhupada’s movement.  And how she wanted to impress upon them so much, that seva is not a performance, it is not a matter of ego, but it is a matter of service.  Trying to please the Lord. Trying to please His devotees. Trying to please Srila Prabhupada.  And with this attitude, we can go on and on, feeling the freshness and the bliss of seva. But if we have some other desires, that we want to become popular or we want to become influential, then that taste will not be there for us.  That sweet taste.

So I don’t want to take too much of your time, I know there are many speakers.  So I will hand it over to our servant of ceremonies. Hare Krsna. Thank you so much for your attention.

Yadubara das

 At Vrindavan Memorial 2013

So thank you all for undergoing the austerity of these last few days in anticipation for this wonderful event. The Lord has kindly given us a beautiful day.  We were wondering what the weather would be like, but it is quite wonderful. And it is appropriate.  Yamuna devi, so much has been said in the last hour, I don’t know where to start.  To me, it is complete.  Already.

But I will try to add a few more things in glorification.

I first went to Surat in 1970.  I was with Srila Prabhupada in his party for some months.  And there were several individuals who impressed me on that party.  One was Yamuna devi, another was Gurudas, her husband. And also Dinananth prabhu.

I was quite an outsider.  I had moustache, long hair, karmi clothes. And remained like that for quite some months.  I was quite stubborn in coming to Krsna consciousness. It took me a long time.

And that didn’t seem to phase these three devotees, they actually befriended me and encouraged me in everything I did. I remember one time I cooked some rice and tomato with some salt in an aluminum pot and offered it to the devotees, and Yamuna devi just praised that preparation.  I was just awestruck.

And then she would look at me and say, “Prabhupada has given you so much time. You are so fortunate.”  When she would do that, you could really appreciate her depth of understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.  And I could understand my lack of it actually.  But I could really appreciate Srila Prabhupada, through her.

I remember Bob Cohen prabhu, who asked Srila Prabhupada during the first Mayapur festival, 1972.And that later became a book, perfect questions, perfect answers. And he was also struck by Yamuna devi.  She would also tell him that “You are so fortunate to have Srila Prabhupada’s association.”  And that had a profound effect on him, as it did on me.

Again, many remembrances came to me, listening to the three devotees who have spoken already. I remember many, many times hearing through the door, where Yamuna and Gurudas were staying. Their room, and they would be discussing how to please Prabhupada.  That would be their sole objective in much plan making would be going on. How to please His Divine Grace

She was very, very serious, and very, very lighthearted. She could be very, very funny.  So many instances, we have seen over the years. Especially at Saranagati.

At the same time she had a very deep understanding of the miseries of material life. And she would joke about these miserable material bodies, how they are giving us so much difficulty.

We spent time in our travels, in our DVD series, Yamuna had some very wonderful comments to make.  Especially on arriving for the first time in the holy dhama, in Mathura.  They were on their way to Amrtsar, and wherever they would stop on the train, they would jump off the train, all the devotees, and have harinam sankirtana.And this would attract many, many persons of course.

But Yamuna devi remembered that time, especially because it was the first time in the holy dhama. She said it was, they were in a trance of ecstasy. Experiencing for the first time, the holy dhama of Vrdavana.

Then in her upcoming book, Dinatarine devi mentioned that one time Yamuna tricked me. That one month we spent in Vrndavana before there was a temple. And certain devotees would be visiting the holy dhama, including Yamuna devi and Gurudas prabhu.  So she took me to a murti walla and she showed me the Deities that she wanted to purchase and worship.

So afterwards, she looked at me deeply in the eyes, and she said, “Can you make the donation to purchase these Deities?”  So I could not refuse. We couldn’t really refuse a request from Yamuna devi. She was so enchanting and captivating.

And also she never wanted to be in the forefront. That was very much evident  In our last years at Saranagati, she spent I believe thirteen or fourteen years as our next door neighbor. It would be very, very difficult. We would have Saturday or Friday night kirtans at our house, and she would often come and it would be very difficult to get her to lead kirtan. We would ask her, and she would say, “No, no, let someone else lead.” So that was her nature. To be very unassuming and not at the forefront. And she had no attraction for material name and fame.  And so many stories have already been expressed in that regard.

And she appreciated Krsna’s energies.  She really loved natural surroundings.  The story goes when she first visited Saranagati. She drove into the valley and she had the realization that Krsna’s holy name resides here.  So that was a big impetus for her deciding for her to move to Saranagati.

I remember many Bhagavatam classes that we would have at her house and she was always extremely interested in other’s realizations and thoughts.  And she would be thrilled to hear of the realizations, especially of the young devotees. And she would just praise that realization.  It was so wonderful to see that, especially with the youth.

Of course she gave a huge amount of her time and energy to the youth, in her last years. And shared with them, what she had learned from Srila Prabhupada, in a very deep way.

So thank you very much for allowing me to speak.
Yamuna devi ki jai!

At November 2013 Vrindavan Memorial

YADUBARA PRABHU:   (obeisances)  Thank you Narottamananda Prabhu for that wonderful offering, it will be hard to say anything more.  As a young photographer coming to India, trying to do a Master’s thesis in photography on the devotees. Yamuna devi stands out in my mind as one of the most prominent persons that I met on that voyage.  I was kind of an unclean person, by vaisnava standards, coming to India, joining the group by Prabhupada’s mercy.  That first batch of devotees that he brought back to India.  So here I come as a full-blown mleccha into their group.  So I remember Yamuna was very, very friendly.  Two things.  Friendly and encouraging.   As was Srila Prabhupada also.  She never criticized and I remember in Bombay, as a photographer I was shooting black and white film. I would develop my film.  Because all of the devotees would get up for mangal aratik, I would also be awakened.  So the first thing that I would do is develop my film in the bathroom, after all the devotees had taken their bath.  Because that was the coolest, that was the time that the water was coolest which we needed.  And also the water was still running.  It would go off quite often.  So some devotees were quite critical of my morning program.  But Yamuna and Gurudas, a handful of devotees, Dinanath also, were always very encouraging and friendly.  And again, Yamuna never put herself forward as we heard from many devotees.  And in those early days I specifically remember the discussions were always on how to serve Srila Prabhupada best.  If there were any discussions between her and Gurudas, I only heard how to serve Prabhupada.  that was her primary focus.  And of course she did so so wonderfully.

In our stay in Surat. The first time we met devotees was in Surat, and I remember there was an astrologer who came one day.  So Prabhupada said, “Let us have some fun.” So he brought the astrologer in, the devotees gathered, and he read a few palms.  I only remember two.  One was a brahmacari, and the astrologer said, “This brahmacari will take sanyasa, but he will fall down.”  So the brahmacari immediately gave the estimation that this astrologer was bhogus. But actually that came to pass.

And he looked at Yamuna devi’s hand, and he said “This person will become more famous than the Yamuna  River.” So this obviously has come to pass.  As Narottamananda has  so wonderfully said, her singing will be heard for how many thousands of years more.  And also for the last decade of her life, she was our closest neighbor at Saranagati, as our closest neighbor.  And it was wonderful to have her so close, especially for our daughter, our daughters, but especially Hari Priya devi, who she and her four friends, Yamuna took such great care with these girls. She took them into her asrama, sometimes they spent the night.  She would teach them cooking, all the arts that she knew.  We couldn’t imagine a better place to be for our daughter.  So thank you so much. Yamuna devi ki jai!

Yoginath das

I met Yamuna in the spring of 1999.  She came to our house to see if we were happy with our straw bale addition and our Amish wood cook stove.  She was wearing a brand new pair of good quality running

shoes.  She came in, looked at the stove, asked a few questions, made a comment about the health benefits of walking (which explained the shoes) and after a brief chat with my wife she left.  The entire visit
lasted no more than 10 minutes and yet I felt as if I had just met an old and dear friend.  She was interesting, bright, full of life and without pretension. The Bana Bihari ashram in Saranagati was the scene of Yamuna’s mature bhajan.  The atmosphere and experience in that ashram was
extraordinary and trans formative.  There seemed to be a protective and benevolent presence of unseen spiritual personalities there.
Between the years of 2000 and 2010 I visited the ashram several hundred times.  This included weekly readings of Chaitanya Charitamrita on Wednesday evenings, Holy Name night on Fridays, the Bhaktivinode bhajans during the summer months, occasional morning programs and a few festival celebrations. No matter what the event happened to be I always left the ashram feeling happy, uplifted,
purified and blessed.  Often times at the end of a program Dina Tarine would indicate that it was time to leave by thanking everyone for coming.  More often than not the announcement was followed by silence.
Nobody wanted to leave.  I was addicted to the BB ashram and I consider my visits there to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Occasionally Yamuna felt so ill during our CC readings that she would
remain bed ridden while we read out loud in the living room/temple area.  On those nights she would sometimes bellow out some expression which seemed to come from the heavens.  “Nectar!” or “Oh Krishna!” she would proclaim from her sick bed.

I observed over the years that Yamuna had a particularly strong impact on young and aspiring devotees.  I believe there are two primary reasons for this.  Number one Yamuna was simultaneously very strict in her own sadhana and yet very accepting, appreciative and non-judgemental of others.  When I say non-judgemental that is not to say that she lacked personal conviction about what was right and what was wrong.  For example when she was petitioned and solicited to participate in the sanga of a somewhat notorious guru she respectfully declined the offers.  Her behavior was so respectful in fact that the enthusiastic followers could not determine if Yamuna was sympathetic towards them or not.  In a smaller gathering however Yamuna candidly stated that she would rather have a root canal than to share that particular sanga.  Non-judgemental means that she treated others with an abundance of affection and appreciation for their own expression of KC no matter what level they might happen to be on.  People found this to be very encouraging.  More influential  than her appreciation of others however was the simple fact that she genuinely enjoyed the practice of KC. In fact to her, as far as I could tell, KC was just
plain fun.  More fun than anything else in the world.  As such it was infectiously fun to be around her and to do things with her. When my 13 year old twin daughters returned from the first of their many Saturday night sleepovers at the BB ashram they were elated and beaming with joyful smiles.
”How did you like it?”I had asked.
”Oh Daddy, it was so much fun.”
”What did you do?”
”We went to be early so that we could wake up at 3:30, we had mangal arotik, we served the deities, we chanted japa, we had guru puja and tulasi puja, we read Srimad Bhagavatam and then we had prasadam.
After that we cleaned the ashram and did more service for the deities. I was dumbfounded, nothing short of a substantial monetary bribe could have persuaded my girls to participate in a full morning program, what to speak of describing it as ecstatic.  Yamuna made KC fun and she could do this because to her it was so much fun that she often bubbled with excitement even over the smallest things. Yamuna was always tastefully dressed.  Even though by the time I met her she was in her sixties and quite short and round she somehow managed to always appear elegant and a little aristocratic in her dress. Yamuna very rarely led a kirtan at a Sunday feast.  But I remember a Sunday gathering at what we referred to as Monica’s house.  She led a kirtan in which she started dancing.  It was the only time I ever saw
her dance like that.  She was cruising back and forth along the full distance of the temple room.  Her movements were very graceful and happy.  When she would spin around it was if she were gliding on air.
Everyone joined in the dance and to me it was exquisite spiritual pleasure straight form Caitanya Lila. In conclusion I say with certainty and conviction that Yamuna had amore profound spiritual impact on my life than any devotee I have ever met. She consistently exhibited the symptoms of an advanced devotee and thus her association was purifying and most desirable. I actually could say a lot more or elaborate on any of these points,but this is a beginning.

It’s a warm day for January. Only a trace of snow on the ground. The roads are icy and slippery. Today we will drive on those icy roads when we gather to honor the passing away of Yamuna Devi. We will meet at the home of Gosh Thakura and Girija. Just over a small hill, less than a kilometer from Gosh’s house, is the Bana Bihari ashram, where Yamuna and Dina Tarine lived from 1999-2011.

As we enter Gosh’s house we hear a recording of Yamuna singing. The living room has been cleared out. Around the perimeter are couches, chairs, and cushions. In one corner is a colorful, well-lit altar. On the altar are the family deities of Guara Nitai, Radha Giridhari, a murti of Srila Prabhupada and a smiling picture of Yamuna Devi. Next to the altar is a screen for a slide show.

Yamala Arjuna leads a kirtan while the room fills up with guests. A hundred men, women, and children fill the living room and kitchen area, many standing on the wooden parquet floor. At 3:15 Kalindi begins the program. She explains that Yamuna liked to begin everything with the “om ajnana” prayers. Whether it was cooking, deity worship, cleaning the house, or bhajans, everything she did began with the mangala charana. And so in unison our voices filled the house with prayers to the previous acharyas just as we had done in Yamuna’s ashram 100’s of times in years past.

After a few slide photos of Yamuna appear on the screen, Udarakirti begins singing Ye Anilo Prema Dana. We follow along using our printed program guides. The drum and karatala are playing very softly. Udara’s voice is slow, melodic, and deliberate. The room is silent except for the song; many cannot sing in response, their voices are choking. At the end of the song there is a request for a box of tissues. Nothing can be found and eventually a jumbo sized roll of toilet tissue is passed around the room. After the devotees dry their eyes and clear their noses, Rasa Raja sings another tribute accompanied by his guitar. When Rasa Raja is finished the audience is solicited to see if anyone would like to offer a eulogy in honor of Yamuna. There is an awkward silence until one of the “milkmaids” steps forward. There are five milkmaids in all. These are the girls who were mentored by Yamuna and Dina Tarine. From age 9 up until age 15-16 they regularly associated with Yamuna. Once a month they had “sleepovers” at the Banabehari ashram. During those weekend intensives Yamuna and Dina would instruct them in the living art of bhakti yoga. Yamuna had t-shirts made for the girls, proclaiming them to be Banabehari’s milkmaids. (Banabehari is the name of Yamuna’s deities.) One after the other the milkmaids spoke about their feelings and memories of Yamuna. The audience was stunned by hearing the depth of sincere love expressed by these girls. The fathers were soaked with tears. One of the five girls, Hari Priya, is in Mayapur and so her offering was read via email.

After hearing the girls, more eulogies are solicited but none is forthcoming. The adults are speechless. How could these young girls have spoken with such simple and profound eloquence? Because no one is capable of speaking, a video of Yamuna singing the Govindam prayers at a recent London reunion is shown.

After the London film clip, Lilamrita sings Gauranga Bolite Habe, Sridam leads a kirtan, there are more slides, and then Kripanidhi leads the Gaura Arati kirtan. At this time everyone offers flowers to the picture of Yamuna. When the arati ceremony is finished, prasadam is served. All of the dishes are favorites of Yamuna’s prepared from recipes found in her cookbook. It is similar to the feasts she occasionally organized when she lived among us in Saranagati. There is sak with paneer, ginger glazed carrots, dokra with coconut chutney, Krishna surprise, srikand and more and more. The feast is spectacular, and the mood changes from somber to light-hearted, and joyful.

After prasadam Mahidhara leads another kirtan, accompanied by more pictures on the screen. Girija then leads Madhuram, a special song in glorification of the holy name, which we sang over and over again at Yamuna’s ashram just a few summers ago. While Girija sings we all take turns offering tea light candles to the picture of Yamuna. The altar becomes brilliant and alive with a hundred candles surrounding Yamuna. Again the milkmaids take stage. They sing a stylized composition of Hari Hari Biphale. Yamuna often said that this was her favorite bhajan. The girls appear to be heavenly Gandharvas. The bhajan is heartfelt, deeply emotional and without pretense.

Again the audience is crying. Bala Krishna plays a recording of Yamuna singing with Karnamrita. It is an unreleased studio composition which Yamuna spent two weeks perfecting. Kartamisa then leads the final kirtan. The kirtan begins with Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sharagrahi poem, another favorite of Yamuna’s. The poem brings to mind the gatherings we relished at the Banabehari ashram. The kirtan becomes loud. We are singing our hearts out to Yamuna Devi. When the kirtan ends there is silence; no one wants to move.

Finally Kalindi instructs us to gather in a circle for the kavacha. At the end of every program at Yamuna’s ashram, it was her custom to have a kavacha. And so we squish ourselves into a circle, holding hands and shoulders. In rapid fire we go around the circle, each person saying one word describing a quality of Yamuna. Without hesitation and without repetition a hundred qualities of Yamuna fill the inner circle of the kavacha. Then as loud as possible we chant the Hare Krishna mantra three times, raising our hands in delight. We finish with an earth-shaking “Yamuna Devi ki jai!”

And then it is over. We give each other goodnight hugs and saunter out of the house. We had been together in one room for 5 hours; it seemed like 30 minutes. Outside the moon is shining on the fields of snow. A million jewels are sparkling in all directions. We scrape the frost from our windshields and drive home.



Anandradhe devi dasi

Yamuna Mataji is glorified for many things but for me her singing use to aspire me a lot always wanted to sing with the depth of bhakti and love for krishna in which she sings. I met Yamuna Mataji in our clinic (Nityananda Clinic) where I got chance to serve her.  On Juhu Jagganath rath Yatra Day, I asked for her blessings as I was going to sing in Jagganath Pandal Programme,

She said keep your ego outside the pandal and then enter, the kirtan will be good.

In her one sentence she taught me the most important and  essential thing. Thank you Mataji . I will always follow your instruction.

Bhakta Vaibhav

I offer my respectful obeisance at the lotus feet of Our Beloved Pisima – Yamuna Prabhu!

I never had the opportunity to meet Srila Prabhupada personally, so I used to take every opportunity to be with every Srila Prabhupada’s Disciple, as being with them, listening to their experiences with Srila Prabhupada, I could experience what it was like being with Srila Prabhupada or to know Srila Prabhupada closely.

Yamuna Prabhu was admitted in the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mira Road, and Mumbai for about four months.H. H. Giriraj Maharaj asked my Sister if she could serve Yamuna Prabhu and soon she started serving every weekend. I was so happy to know that I’ll be meeting the person who sang the Sringar-Aartika (Govindam adi Pursham) with all her life and soul. It is played almost every hour in different parts of the world.

As my sister had to go on a business travel, she asked me if I could serve Mother Yamuna. From that day onwards I got the seva of buying stuffs for her like organic vegetables, Travel bags, or other essentials. I would wait the entire week for Sundays to arrive so I could meet our beloved Pisima.

The Moment I used to enter her room we would greet each other by loudly reciting the prayer.

vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eve ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah

She was so sweet the way she used to talk and I always told her that if you are so Sweet how Sweet Srila Prabhupada would be. Along with her I was fortunate to meet Dinatarini Prabhu, they were a team who never left each other’s association.

She used to call me the Big Little Shopper, I simply loved it.

I asked her for her advice how to love Krsna, how to progress more in our spiritual life and she said “Do what you love for Krsna and love what you do for Krsna”

She always emphasized on associating with devotees as much as we can. Like we used to read Bhagavad gita for her when she was having lunch, then she would read while we had lunch.She said that during days when she used to accompany Srila Prabhupada, she always sat right in front of Srila Prabhupada for his lectures. During the Azad maidan programme held in the 70’s Srila Prabhupada asked her to lead the kirtan and she was astonished, took up the seva. She wanted to tell that Srila Prabhupada cares for everyone, being in the association of a pure devotee is really very necessary for our spiritual creeper to grow.

SrilaPrabhupada noticed everything small or big.

I was always amazed to see how much she loved Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. Whenever I brought her the Veggies then she would tell what she’s going to offer to Sri Sri Radha Banabihari and in minutes she had delicious prasadam feast ready for them.

Once I asked Yamuna Prabhu and Dina Prabhu to narrate me an incident with Srila Prabhupada which they hold very close to their heart.

Way back in the early days of ISKCON when their husbands had taken Sannayasa due to some reasons people wanted them to go to Sydney with other ladies. Instead of doing that they rented an accommodation where they had the beautiful deities of Sri Sri Radha BanaBihar  they named the place Sharnagati. People started accusing them that they left ISKCON & Srila Prabhupada by doing this thing, they were really very sad and disheartened with the entire episode going around.They wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada and requesting him to visit them once.Our very merciful Srila Prabhupada visited them very soon.They sat with him and asked that the people our telling that we have left you and ISKCON by doing so.He gazed into their eyes and told if you are chanting the Hare Krsna maha mantra then you are always with Me in my Mission to spread Krsna Consciousness this gave them the ultimate soothing relief. Then Srila Prabhupada asked how much rent they pay, they said $100 Srila Prabhupada started teasing them and told he used to pay only Rs.5.

This really showed the Love Srilaprabhupada had for his Disciples – his children.

She introduced us to the Hare krsna kavacha by holding each other’s hands and loudly chanting the Hare Krsna Mahamantra.

On the last day I asked Yamuna prabhu and Dina prabhu to write an instruction for me which they got from Srila Prabhupada will help me in my spiritual life.

Yamuna prabhu as always again instructed me with this:


Dina Prabhu instructed me to be –

DETERMINED, PATIENT, and ENTHUSIASTIC” lack of any one would do no good to your spiritual life.

She asked me to be Sincere in my life in whatever I do. She told me to have gratitude towards anyone and everyone.

She was sweetness Personified. As she was sweeter than sugar to interact with it even reflected in her emails we shared.

Once again I offer my respectful obeisance to our beloved Pisima Yamuna prabhu, may she bless us all so that we can serve Srila Prabhupada and his movement with all our Strength.

Your insignificant little servant, (Big Little Shopper)

Bhakta Vaibhav.

Bhakti Caru Swami

BHAKTI CARU SWAMI:   (Obeisances, including: Namah om Visnu padaya Krsna presthaya bhutale Srimate Yamuna Devi iti namine.

Srila Prabhupada was sent by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and to assist him in the mission of spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also sent some very, very special devotees.  And Mother Yamuna is undoubtedly one of them.  In Iskcon she has been immortalized by her Govindam Adi Purusam.  As long as Iskcon will be there, in every temple during Darshan Aratik, that will be sung, and in this way, everyone will remember her as long as Iskcon will be there, along with Srila Prabhupada.

She played an amazing role in spreading Krsna consciousness. Her first meeting with Srila Prabhupada was when she came to her sister’s wedding.  Janaki devi dasi with Mukunda Maharaja.  They were getting married. That arrangement was also quite sudden. Both of them got married, Mukunda Maharaja and at that time, Mukunda das, and Janaki devi – Jan got initiated as Janaki devi.  Then Srila Prabhupada, after initiation said, “Now that you got initiated you cannot live like boyfriend and girlfriend, you have to get married.”  Srila Prabhupada decided to marry them in a very short notice, and Janaki wrote to her sister, Yamuna devi.  She came and she assisted Srila Prabhupada in cooking the feast. One thing that she recalled very vividly, that after she touched everything, Prabhupada told her to go and wash her hands.

But it was actually love at the first meeting. Yamuna fell in love with Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada fell in love with Yamuna. Then after New York center was established Prabhupada wanted Mukunda Maharaja, who actually arranged the 26 Second Avenue, he got that place for Srila Prabhupada with an apartment behind the storefront.  And Srila Prabhupada wanted him to go to San Franscisco.  And Prabhupada practically sent them, just two of them, Mukunda and Janaki.  And Mukunda Maharja wrote to his friends, Syamasundara Prabhu and Gurudas Prabhu.  And they already got to know about Srila Prabhupada from Yamuna devi dasi, and they were quite impressed and they came and as you all know, that three couples, six of them started the movement in the West Coast.

In retrospect we also must recall that Mukunda Maharaja also played a very, very significant role in the development of Iskcon.  He was the first one who got this place 26 Second Avenue for Srila Prabhupada, he is the one who went to the West Coast and got that place in Haight Ashbury near Golden Gate Park, and the Hare Krsna explosion started in the world of the youth of America.  Because they were all moving to San Francisco , Golden Gate Park. And not only that, soon after San Francisco center was established, three of them came to Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada was in Montreal at that time- either Montreal or Boston.  Anyway, they came to Srila Prabhupada and explained to him their desire to go to London to spread Krsna consciousness. We know how Syamsundara met George Harrison, and he became their friend, and how Yamuna Mataji got that album with George Harrison, which is our Govindam Adi Purusam.  Prior to that there was the My Sweet Lord album.  So we can see what an extremely important role she played in spreading Krsna consciousness.

In our prayer we say Krsna presthaya bhutale.  The one who has been sent by Krsna to this planet, bhutale, and Yamuna Mataji is undoubtedly one such personality who had been sent by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to assist Him in this spreading of Krsna consciousness.
I had some very short and very few encounters with her.  As Rtadvaja Maharaja was telling – it was actually at Henry’s house that I met Yamuna Mataji for the first time.  Yes, Henry has a big house and his ground floor has a large bedroom quite secluded away in one corner, and that place was actually there for Mother Yamuna and Mother Dinatarini.  She actually set up a very beautiful altar in Henry’s house just next to their room.  And I had seen how Henry had been affected by her association.  He was quite favorable to Krsna consciousness but due to Mother Yamuna’s influence, he has become extremely committed to Krsna consciousness.

When I met her for the first time, I told her, “I heard so much about you.”  And she told me, “I also heard so much about you.” She was a wonderful personality.  I haven’t come across many personalities with so much genuine love and concern.  She was apparently she was very withdrawn, she was quiet, she was not very outgoing or very, or at least the way I saw her.  But just by being with her, one could feel that how earnest, how genuine a devotee she is.

She did not want to have a big recognition. She didn‘t want to be worshiped as such. She was just at the back of everything.  But although she tried to hide herself, Krsna would not allow her to be like that.  Krsna actually in spite of her staying in the back of everyone, Krsna actually brought her in the front of everyone, just next to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet. For the whole world to see just what a wonderful devotee she is.

I feel extremely fortunate to have a god sister like her, and I thank Srila Prabhupada again and again, for creating that good fortune for me.  Yamuna devi ki jai!

Once again I will offer that prayer to her.

Namah om Visnu padaya Krsna presthaya bhutale

Srimate Yamuna Devi iti namine.

Hare Krsna.

Bhaktin Pooja

It was during the summer in Chennai as a thirteen year old I first heard the enchanting song ‘Govindam Adi Purusam’sung by Yamuna prabhu and I got completely fascinated to the prayers. Whenever I heard the song, its vibrations touched my inner-self and stirred my soul. Little did I know that this song would be the beginning of my journey on this path of Krsna consciousness.

It was Yamuna prabhu’s sweet voice that gave this insignificant soul some taste for the holy name. She saved me from drowning in this ocean of material existence & captivated my heart for Lord Govinda to reside! To this day she nourishes the feelings of thousands of devotees across the world every single morning at 7 am as we offer our heart to the beautifully dressed Lords. Yamuna prabhu’s sweet voice brings out the sweet mellows that lay hidden in the deep recesses of our souls.

It was through an email I received from my Gurudev, HH Giriraj Swami Maharaj showering his mercy upon me by asking me to serve Yamuna Prabhu as she was getting treatment in Bhaktivedanta hospital in Mira Road, Mumbai and very soon I was assigned the service of serving her breakfast and lunch every Saturday and Sunday along with basic shopping. I consider myself fortunate enough to be in the association of a true devotee who inspired me and guided me.

When I first opened her room, She greeted me excitedly and said “Radhe Radhe !” and I replied “ Jai Jai Sri Radhe !”. She was so loving and caring and ensured I was comfortable when she wasn’t keeping a good health herself. It felt like I knew her already and that I wasn’t meeting her for the first time. She asked me about my profession and she loved the fact that I was working as a Manager in a Japanese Networking & Communication giant in HR department, was driving a car and living all by myself. She started addressing me as ‘Super smart cookie’ and I soon started addressing her as ‘my beloved Pisima’.

As I was earlier informed by other devotees, I ensured that there was a slice of lemon, salt & pepper while serving her meals. Before honoring prasad, she would sing the prayers melodiously, the melody with which she could drown anyone in the ocean of Krsna prema through her entrancing voice. As she had her breakfast Prasad I read verses and purports from Bhagavad-Gita and she always insisted that I eat as well while she read Bhagawad-Gita, so this continued. After her meals I would fill 2 bottles; one with fresh water and the other with herbal tea.

One day, I received a call from her and she called to check if I knew of any organic groceries / organic fresh produce store she sounded all keyed up, soon I had a list of them in my mailbox; she was a google expert and found all that in no time. I was excited to go shopping for Pisima. So every Sunday I started visiting Farmer’s market in Bandra and order on phone groceries from naturally yours and conscious foods – organic grocery stores. I loved buying and carefully selecting fresh vegetable for Pisima as I could see how pleased she was. She would use them for salads etc. She guided me as I wrapped veggies in different bags and kept in the refrigerator making space very diligently.

She had very few needs and I would jump and grab the opportunity to buy her note pads, pens, glass water flask and shopping for some Indian wear for her friends in saranagati. The whole experience was fulfilling everytime I would see her happy and contented with the stuff I would purchase, definitely it is Guru’s & Krsna mercy and guidance. I would enter her room and say out loud “Here comes Santa clause!” and soon after that from smart cookie , Pisima lovingly called out to me as “My super shopper girl”.

Once, I noticed Pisima’s feet and the skin on her legs was really dry and scaling and I begged if I could massage with some lotion / ointment. She did not agree but I really insisted and she said “okay here is some crocodile skin in need for some treatment” and we laughed as I continued massaging her legs and feet.

Pisima showed me the mail in which she was making 108 bhoga offering for Sri Sri Radhavanabiharij and I was truly amazed at her love & devotion, complete focus and attention with which she listed out 108 varieties of bhoga offerings.

Pisima would narrate many pastimes with Srila Prabhupada , the ones that are mentioned in the offerings of HH Giriraj Swami Maharaj about her realization of Spiritual Master’s Vani & Vapu. Pisima often spoke of the Milkmaid girls and I was fortunate to meet one of them – Haripriya, daughter of Yadubara prabhu during the Japa retreat in October 2011. Pisima always mentioned Dinatarine prabhu and I was very keen to meet her.

I remember she wanted to have cheelas (flat dosas made of Besan -gram flour ) and coconut chutney for breakfast  so she told me exactly how to make it and I rushed home and followed her instructions carefully. I returned with her desired breakfast and was intently looking at her reaction when she had her first bite and she saide “wow sadhuji this is the best Cheelas and chutney i have ever had” and that very moment I felt like I have personally served Srila Prabhupada and he was satisfied with my service and that was the day when I had the fortune of meeting Dinatarine prabhu who also relished the cheelas and that evening I received an email saying “thank you for the note pads, light bulb, and best cheela and chutney ever. both dinatarine and I will recall with fondness the delicious besan cheelas you delivered our way on previous sundays. Looking forward to next sunday’s cheelas, Your Friend your Pisima!

 She also shared that how important it was to roast sama rice before cooking it like suji /rawa for ekadasi cooking.

We often did the Hare Krishna mahamantra round robin, holding hands and always got a hug before I left her room.

Once, after having chanted for many minutes Hare Krishna Mahamantra while we held hands, she called it the ‘Hare Krishna Mahamantra- Kavach’ and later Pisima held me close and hugged me, as I walked back to my apartment in Mira road from the hospital I just jumped a several times and said out loud “This is vaikuntha” just spending a few hours with Pisima enveloped us and elevated us giving a glimpse of the spiritual world.

Pisima shared how during the building of KrsnaBalaram temple in Vrindavan then mostly forested had the men go to river Yamuna for a bath however the ladies had to dress up the deities and prepare the bhoga early hours of the morning hence had enough time to have a bath from a water tank which was utilized to keep the bricks for building purpose submerged in water. Soon the ladies noticed a dog sitting in the same tank with only his head above the water to relieve itself of the acute itch and pain as he was suffering from Sarcoptic mange- no hair on the body and full of puss and itch ( Pisima found the scientific name of the disease). Few days later Pisima developed boils and itch on her hands, she would just apply some turmeric and get back to her service. This time around, I was heading back to my apartment with tears rolling down on my face. It was because of the sacrifice, struggle, austerity, determination and the dedication for serving Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radhkrishna by the devoted/exalted disciples like her that we are reaping the fruit of having wonderful temples, books to read, paintings to see, deities darshan, music to hear and much more. I feel grateful & indebted to everyone and value Krsna consciousness so dearly.

I would like to dedicate this poem below to my beloved Pisima!I hope this will please Yamuna prabhu

Sri Guru & Gauranga Jayate!

Most Merciful Holy name!

Oh most merciful Holy name!

Indescribable are your glories and fame

Our Intimate time with Krsna while chanting

Can chant his names while singing and dancing!


‘Hare Krishna Mahamantra’ is the only way

Else Material world will swirl us and sway

Thinking of troubles of yesterday

that will only leave us in dismay.


Everyday is fresh and new

and how you spend it is up to you.

Krsna has taken his form in his holy names

Taking away our miseries and pains


Chant ‘Hare Krishna’ with love and faith

With patience and steadfastness we will develop more taste

‘Love of Radha & Krsna’ the holy name will bestow

Their Lordships mercy will overflow


Make plans to pursue what it is that you seek,

Be simple, Be humble, Be gentle and meek

Chant with your heart and soul

let that be your life’s ….only goal


So Chant…..

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!

And Be Happy

Dwarakadish das

At Vrindavan memorial 2013

Om ajnana timirandasya….. It is a very dear memory, the month of December, early in the morning, around 6:30, we were called to the hospital, Yamuna devi’s arrival. I don’t know if this has already been spoken. But, her flight was supposed to reach at 5:30 at the airport, and it arrived at 5:00, and she walked out of the waiting lobby, having nobody there to receive her. And she had already had a very, very extremely difficult journey from I think Canada, America, and then Singapore.  And she was in a very bad state, she was not able to breathe, she was not able to walk,  so she just came out of the airport and started loudly singing the Govindam prayers, helplessly calling out to Krsna. And some taxi driver came up and said, “Bhaktivedanta Hospital?”

This must be paramatma .  She just said, “Yes.” And sheand  just jumped into his taxi and taxi brought her to Bhaktivedanta Hospital. When she first came her blood pressure was 190 over 130, when I saw her for the first time.  I was very surprised that she was – her lungs were choked up, she was in cardiac failure, she was bloated up all loaded with fluid, all of the body was swollen, oxygen levels in the body were low.  And everything was is disarray

We put in the ICU and we tried to help her.  When  through all these  difficulties, what comes up most prominent, was that she was always very very warm and affectionate.  Even she was going through so much.

Actually medically speaking, that she had this difficulty in breathing disorder called OSA, Obstructive Sleep apnea syndrome, which she must have suffered for so many years. Not knowing that she is unable to breathe in the night because of her bodily structure.  She was choking up, choking up, and her heart was failing, every day practically.  Surprisingly in Canada they did not properly diagnose her, and only when she came here we realized that this is the major problem with her, that all her organs are failing, her heart, her kidneys, her lungs are failing, because she is not able to breathe.  She has no oxygen in her body.

For last more than ten years. Practically.  And Sri Nathaji called for the machine, and we gave it to her, and then she started breathing normally for the first time in several years. And I believe that gave her some extra time that she passed in this world.

She stayed on the fifth floor of the hospital, and I had this very special privilege of seeing her practically every day.  I would finish my work every evening, by seven o’clock, or so and because I would need more time with her so I would go and see her in her room.   And it was a very special feeling going into her room, and offering obeisances to that floor.  And knowing that this is the dust that adorns her lotus feet is on this floor.

And she would be very very motherly, she was a Mother.  She would praise my tie, she would praise my attire. She would say how smart looking I am. (laughter)She had this very wonderful nature of making me feel important and good.

It was a difficult case, and under Radhanath Maharaja’s instruction and consultation with the devotees,  we took her to all the best doctors in Mumbai. Best of cardiologists, best of nephrologists,  (inaudible) So we did basically what was best, and we put all of this data together, and we were successful.  In three and a half months, we could get her moving, and she was much better, her breathing, breath  was completely controlled.  She lost about 12 to 15 kilos of fluid from her body.  About thirty pounds of weight was lost. It was very useful.

So we were happy that in the female body, we had probably the most important guest in our hospital in so many years to serve. All of us were very, very happy to get her affection.

She took a very special flavor, and addressed me in a very special way, after we did this drama .  We did this presentation on Hlandini devi’s life, called Legacy of Love.  But I had this cruel role to play of Johnston, who was the murderer of this exalted soul, Hladini devi. I was playing that role, and she wanted to come into the auditorium and be there and see this performance.  She was so eager and fired up that my doctor is doing this role.  And so she wanted to be there and see this.

But medically we kind of disclaimed her  from coming,  and she stayed back and she was looking live, online on the laptop.  So the next, in the morning, she said she was looking for me throughout the whole drama, where was I, where was I. It was a very different attire, a different wig and all that. I was a very demonic looking fellow.

And then she came the next day and said, “Doctor Johnston! Doctor Johnston!” And she initiated me to that name.  Ever since then, she would see me, and say, “This is Dr. Johnston!”  She was so excited that I could play a role like that.  So cruel, so hateful, so dispiseful, so ugly.  And that endeared her and endeared us to both of each other in a more intimate manner

Many things to be said, but I will be brief. I want to speak about the last day that she was there with us.  The last day was very, very special.  We arranged a long table, and all the devotees who were her servants at that time, we all sat around that table. The table was beautifully decorated with flowers and  (bookies?) and strings and scripts. And Dinatarine Mataji was so gracious, as each and every servant was entering the auditorium, where Yamuna was already seated, she would garland with a ribbon and a nice rose.

And we all felt “Oh this is a very special “  I didn’t know what to expect.  And then we all sat around this beautifully decorated table.  And then she asked Rupa Manjari to start singing one particular tune of the maha mantra, and then each and every devotee sang the same tune, one after another, it went on for a long time. And everyone was looking at Yamuna devi at that time, because her eyes were completely closed and she was deeply absorbed in chanting the holy name of the Lord.  With I believe a lot of love for Krsna, and through that chanting she was expressing a lot of love for us, and a gratuitous feeling for all of us who had served her, and we were feeling gratitude for having been able to serve her. So it was a  reciprocation of a lot of love was there .  And then she was so kind, she made gifts for all of us.  She made paper bags, and she had different gifts for all of us. Different things for all of us.  And her own handwriting, was very beautiful just like her singing. So each and every paper bag was with her own hands, to so and so, to so and so, like that.  And I was very eager to know what was in my own bag. Because I knew it would be very special.

I was looking forward to that, and I got my bag, and it was a beautiful picture of Prabhupada smiling.  And that gave me such deep satisfaction. (pauses due to crying) Because I knew that in serving her, Prabhupada was happy with me.

Hare Krsna

Gaurangi Prem Puja

So whenever I went to Yamuna mataji’s room, I would knock very lightly, and immediately she would call out, ‘O Gaurangi!  You are there!  Come in, come in.” As soon as I would enter into the room, more of us were cooking, but she wanted that only one of us should come, she didn’t want a big rush or anything. So we were following whatever Mataji likes.

So first I was paying obeisances, and Mataji completed her full vancha kalpa tarubhyas ca…With out finishing that, she wouldn’t go on with anything.  Others they also told the same thing, that Mataji was always completing that vancha kalpa, and then she was continuing.

Then I was sitting on the ground, and she was saying, “Don’t sit on the ground.”  It was very embarrassing for me to sit in the chair. Then she explained why to sit on the ground but why to sit on the chair.  She was telling that “See. You are paying obeisances to my Paramatma, soul, and you are giving so much respect to the soul, and if you are sitting on the ground, you are thinking that you are inferior. You are not sitting on the chair. If you sit on the chair, then I also respond in the same way, if we are equal.”  She was no nicely mentioning that if you are on the chair, then equally she will respond to your Paramatma. We are the same in that respect.  It is not that we are respecting outward, no one is lower or higher.  So very nicely she described it, but I was so confused, she was telling very nicely, and Dinatarini Mataji, also was telling very nicely.

Everyday she was appreciating so many things.  So many things she was telling me  that I cannot say, it is in my heart only.  Each and every thing she was appreciating. So many things each and every one. When anyone entered the room, she was appreciating, that nature was in her heart.

(She describes all the different preparations that she made for Yamuna, and how she instructed her to prepare each dish.)

She was telling me how to make each dish, and it would turn out so tasty.

One thing that I was noticing, is that when Dinatarini mataji, when she was sick, Yamuna mataji was also very sick, but she took full care for Dinatarini mataji.  She was telling me, “Don’t stand here, you just go to Dinatarini, and whatever is required, you just give her.”  It was at that time at how she was giving preference that “Go and serve Dinatarini.”  That gives bliss to her.

So she was sending there, and each and everything, how to make milk, what to give, what not to give, what medicine, just to call the doctor.  She was taking so much care.  At that time I realized, Mataji was so sick, and she was so sick, and she was thinking so much about Dinatarini mataji.  How much we should be thinking of others.

But I was so unfortunate that I could not serve so nicely.  The Lord gave me such a nice opportunity, but that motivation is there.  But still I am thinking that Mataji will call me.  I don’t know why this thought is there. All the time, I am just thinking, but it is just my selfishness, just my selfish motive. But all the time she gave, even her cooker, still I am not using this, just have it kept nicely.

One day Yamuna mataji made a dish was excellent, out of this world.  She offered so nicely. Like the Lord personally came and she also started with Om ajnana timirandhasya..then she prayed, and at that time, especially the Lord is coming and He is tasting that food. We are also doing, but that mood is not coming. But mataji on that day she served so nicely she honoured to the Lord, like the Lord is personally coming and eating.

And then when we were eating, that she gave us for the taste, really it was out of the world.  Each and every fragrance was coming from that, and then I just expressed, “Mataji, that was out of this world.” So that day, Mataji was telling me, “One day I am serving to you, and you are telling like this.  Every day you people are just preparing and bringing for me. I am also just, everyday I am feeling the same experience.”  Appreciating.  It shows that for each and every thing she was appreciating, and encouraging how to do seva.

One day she was just telling – she was very keen observer also. The way we were talking, everyday she was noticing that.  She said, “I want to express myself. The way you are coming, putting the plates – everything she was observing – the utensils, the way your are talking, sitting – everything in collective form I am eating this prasadam, whatever you are cooking.

It showed that at that time, how she was so keen observer. She mentioned everything, and I was not feeling that way at that time. She told all those things makes her life so clear and calm, and this really helps me for my recovery.  It is not that you just make the food and you give it to me. I also appreciate each and every thing of how you are serving and in the collective form – So that day I thought, “Oh…”

Last day when she got together all those who had served her, I was unable to come, because I had other service, and she noticed that I was not there. But on that day she recognized my service.

When ever I was coming from mataji’s room, it was amazing.  He is full of bliss.  Krsna is the reservoir of pleasure, so in this way, I will try to express myself, that she was full of love, and ecstasy.  When coming from her, I was filled with love only.  The whole day – and my sister was feeling the same way.  That those days was really what was in our life what we can’t tell – it was the mercy of the Lord only.  We are so insignificant. We are not qualified, to get that kind of mercy, but due to the senior matajis and prabhuji’s, through their blessings only, we got this opportunity to serve such a great soul.  Each and every day, getting mataji’s darsan, it was amazing. Such a saintly person, and every day.  To get this is uncomparable. So what to say about seva.

The day when she was going, she was standing and talking with Prabhupada in the lobby.  Until that day I have observed so many things, but I have not experienced that day, mostly I was just seeing the effect how she was relating to Prabhupada. We are thinking that this is his Deity form, but she was closely talking with Prabhupada when she was in the lobby.

When she was going, she was standing by the vehicle, and her love and everything just came in the form of tears.  Just flowing from her eyes, in the form of love.  We can’t forget that scene. And after going from there, in each and every corner we were feeling the absence of mataji.

After she left , so many things reminded me of mataji. When we went in that same room we still felt mataji’s presence.

One day, I was cutting palla, that time I was recollecting mataji, and telling so much about mataji.  Then suddenly a call came, it was Kaisori mataji, and she told that, you know what happened. “No, mataji, how it happened.”  And then she told, “Yes.” Then were just shocked by hearing that. And then Srimate called and she was telling the same thing. Then she was also telling the same thing, that she was remembering mataji, and also a few other mataji’s called, that same night that mataji left.

They were also sharing the same thing. The same vibration goes to each and every one.  Maybe she was remembering us, that is why the same vibration goes to each and every one.

Then that night we were, like how this happened. That time I was only waiting for mataji to come again.  Thinking, I had not served nicely.  Next time when mataji will come I will take leave.  I tho.  ught like that. One month or whatever and just serve nicely.  And kept that cooker also nicely, til mataji will come back.

One day, after prasadam, Yamuna mataji saw Dinatarini mataji and she just raised her hands and said, “Dina!” And Dinatarini mataji was telling, ‘Yaamm!” And Yamuna mataji said, “How was today’s prasada?”  Then they are telling, “Yeaahhh!” Both of them, just like this.  They are not telling that how it was. Just by showing their actions, they were so happy, so happy.  These memories are there.  Just like a child, you know. Full love.

It says in Srimad Bhagavatam, that wherever you will touch, the same sweetness is there, in each and every canto and part.  So in the same way, in Yamuna mataji body, it is full of love and full of sweetness.  Each and every pore vibrates with sweetness and love, and that sweetness and love she is giving also.

When I was coming out of the room, I was feeling that I was just so full of that sweetnes and love and care. So much.  That is something I have not got from anyone.  It was totally spiritual. So how I will get from anyone? It was totally transcendental. And I was just feeling that I was just coming from Prabhupada’s room. Because each and every thought is there with mataji about Prabhupada. All the time whenever we were entering, she was telling some story about Prabhupada.

Every time she was giving.  And same thing Dinatarini mataji.  She was also very – you know – but I couldn’t understand, that time I was not able to do proper seva, and still I am regretting that , still I have not done.

My realization is that whatever we are getting seva, we have to do nicely. Because this seva is not ordinary, and is provided by the Lord only. So if it is provided by the Lord, we have to do our best to do it.  We should not think that it is not in our capacity or we can’t do it.  This energy is coming from the Lord, and He is providing those energies, and we personally realized that serving mataji. That we were not able still Lord, empowered and we did all those things.  How we did, still we are thinking, how.  It was not ordinary for me.

Mataji, such an exalted soul. It was just for mataji. Still I am very happy, that whatever seva we did, with all the faults, still mataji accepted. Appreciated for each and every thing.  We were asking for seva. Mataji was not giving seva to everyone. She was very particular, that I will not  give pain to others. She wanted to do herself only.

In the morning, she was so particular, she wa sitting and writing a whole list of what are the requirements of the day.  But she was relaxed, that it will be in a good way. She was relaxed.

Still we are feeling that. Even though mataji is not physically here, still we are realizing the same effect. As how Prabhupada is not here, but now mataji is there in the spiritual world with Prabhupada.

Jahnavi:  As you are speaking, I was realizing, that just as we say, when we think of Krsna, when you speak about Krsna, Krsna is present there. So when we have these relationships that are on the transcendental level, they aren’t material. The same thing is there. When we think about Srila Prabhupada, he is here. It is not any different. And with Yamuna also, I feel that way, everytime when  I meet someone and we talk, I just feel that she is here with us.  Because there is that connection of love, and that can’t be destroyed.

Gaurangi Prem Puja:  We are telling about Krsna and we are feeling so much love, and we are absorbed in that. The same way telling about mataji, the same feeling, the same thoughts are coming, by words we are just associating with her, and every day we are getting Govindam adi purusam. Whenever it starts I was not concentrating on that song, but after that, every day just by hearing that, sound going in the ears, and we are remembering mataji.

She is amazing.  Like Prabhupada.  Nondifferent. Each and every action – I can’t forget those things. The way she was putting butter or ghee, anything, spices.  It was not ordinary. The way – her hands actions, her face, her sitting posture.

She taught us how to use this cooker, and then gave it to us. She had not strength, but still she gave.

Hari-sauri das

Its seven days since the departure of one of the most beloved disciples of Srila Prabhupada, Her Grace Srimati Yamuna devi dasi on December 20 2011 in Melbourne Florida, Saphala Ekadasi. I have been musing on what to write, thinking that I could never say enough to properly glorify and appreciate such a great soul. There aren’t enough superlatives to adequately convey the respect and deep loving regard that Yamuna devi commanded by her purity, humility, deep devotion, personalism and precise absorption in the mellows of transcendental dealings.

Aside from Srila Prabhupada himself, it’s hard to think of anyone I have met who was as Krsna conscious as she.

I have read over the last week a great outpouring of appreciation and love from all sectors of the Vaisnava community-men, women, sannyasis, new and old devotees. She touched the lives of millions directly and indirectly by her service and devotion. She was not an ordinary person nor indeed an ordinary devotee.

One of the things that comes strikingly through from the offerings and eulogies is her unique ability to make everyone she met feel special. Her dealings were such that even a brief meeting with her left you feeling as if you had known her all your life. She was kind, attentive, appreciative, wise and completely present with whoever she was with. Even in seemingly casual conversation she had that deep and fathomless quality that only the very advanced possess. When you met her you felt that you had a special relationship with her; and that’s what made her special. She was a true daughter of Srila Prabhupada.

I hope I can add to the portrayal of our dear Yamuna devi with a few anecdotes which may highlight her special relationship with Srila Prabhupada and with all of us.
My own first indirect contact with her started on the very first day I started doing service at theSydney temple in February 1972. I was engaged with another bhakta in renovating a small storefront next door to the temple in Glebe. For a week I would walk over to the temple in the early morning and spend the day painting and decorating. We had a small record player and one record, the Radha Krsna Temple album.

All day long we repeatedly played it, listening over and over again to music and singing that transported us to an otherworldly, mystical state of consciousness.
Predominant was the slightly nasal, indescribably attractive Vaikuntha voice of Yamuna. I had never heard anything like it. The way she sang ‘Bhaja Mana Hure’ and ‘Govinda Jaya Jaya’ was totally captivating.

And every morning we heard her lead the Brahma-samhita prayers “Govindam adi purusham tam aham bhajami” as we greeted the newly-dressed forms of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha

It was a great introduction to Krsna consciousness. When I asked one of the senior devotees,Baibhavi dasi, who the singer was, she replied in awed tones, “That’s Yamuna. Prabhupada said she is already on the stage of bhava.” I didn’t know what bhava was, but I could understand it was something very special from Yamuna’s singing.
The playing of the Govindam prayers each morning to greet the Deities became an ISKCON standard from the moment the recording was made. Srila Prabhupada had been sent some copies by Shyamasundara prabhu immediately after it was recorded by George Harrison:

Februrary 16 1970 – London
Dearest Prabhupada,
Please accept my most humble obeisances, though I am so unworthy even to accept crumbs from the plates of your devotees. Please find enclosed the first copy of “Govindam” which you have taught us, and which we, quite badly, have rendered for the glorification of your Guru Maharaj in the world at large.
Yamuna, myself, Mukunda and Janaki are singing, with everyone joining on the chorus. George plays guitar, Mukunda plays organ, a new boy, Hamper (an Armenian boy), plays “oud” (an Arabian stringed instrument), I play esraj, Gurudas and I play khartals and there is an orchestra of 6 violins, 6 violas, 2 double-bass, 2 tubas, 3 cellos, and one harp. Please accept this record as our humble offering unto your divine Lotus Feet.
As you can see by enclosure, we are very popular also in Yugoslavia, a communist country. Two weeks ago we were #1, now we are #5. George has received letters from young people in Yugoslavia asking him to send someone there to start a temple. I will xerox these and send them in due course to you. .
When the record is released here March 6 there will be a flurry of publicity and we shall have many occasions to mention the book [note: ‘Krsna’]. I will be with George all day Thursday walking on the grounds of his new monastery to asses the work he wants me to supervise and I shall discuss the foreword with him. I am pretty sure he will do it. Shall I ask him to say anything in particular?
Your idea of a small booklet is supreme, and I shall try to get that foreword from George as soon as possible. If Boston prints it, I can work out details with them (such as English spelling, English prices etc.) and begin taking orders. I may have to travel around Britain to sell Krsna book but the record publicity should make this easier. Since the record will not be released in U.S. til about first of May perhaps the U.S. centers can plan a double campaign (book and record).

I have just come from the cutting room where this record was made, it is late at night in Trafalgar Square post office so I shall write a longer letter tomorrow to clarify some points. Your servant and friend forever, Shyamasundar.”
Srila Prabhupada sent a long reply, opening with an appreciation of the record:
Letter to: Syamasundara — Los Angeles 21 February, 1970
My Dear Syamasundara,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 16 February, 1970, along with “Govindam” record. I have heard it played on a record player and, although the machine was not very good, still I enjoyed the transcendental vibration very much. .”
And in a subsequent letter on February 25 1970 Prabhupada commented:
“I have already acknowledged that the “Govindam” record is very nice, and I am sure it will be appreciated. Devananda also has liked it and says that the sound will be very attractive to the young people especially.
Regarding the presentation of “Govindam” as well as other mantras, the vibration is always pure. I will give the theme and if the sound is Westernized that does not matter.”
It was reported that when Srila Prabhupada heard the Govindam prayers he had tears in his eyes. And as he installed more and more Deities in his rapidly expanding ISKCON movement and standardized the sadhana and routines of temple life, the playing of the Govindam prayers at the greeting of the Deities became an integral and well-loved feature, giving transcendental pleasure to tens of thousands the world over.

Later on, just after I joined Srila Prabhupada’s party in December 1975, a letter arrived addressed to His Divine Grace from some brahmacaris in Los Angeles. They were objecting to the playing of the London recording of the Govindam prayers, and particularly the fact that a woman, Yamuna devi, was singing them:
[TD1] December 12 1975 – Vrndavana-dhama
During his massage Prabhupada heard a letter from Jayasacinandana dasa in Los Angeles written on behalf of a group of brahmacaris. In every ISKCON temple in the world the assembled devotees offer their obeisances to the Deities in the morning as the Govindam prayers loudly play. George Harrison recorded it and Yamuna dasi sings the mantras.
Disturbed by this custom, Jayasacinandana quoted Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (as well as Srila Prabhupada) that if a brahmacari hears and is attracted to a woman singing, it is a subtle falldown. “In light of this,” he wrote, “many of the brahmacaris approached the temple president to see if it would be possible that when the Deities are greeted in the morning that instead of listening to Gurudasa Maharaja’s former wife singing the Brahma-samhita prayers, we could listen to Your Divine Grace rather than hear a woman sing. He did not want to change the tape because it had been a standard thing in ISKCON since 1970. So requested by many devotees, I am enquiring from Your Divine Grace if we could play a tape recording of you singing instead of a woman when the Deities of Rukmini-Dvarakadisa are greeted in the morning. I am sure that all the devotees would be enlivened to hear you instead of electric guitars, the London symphonic orchestra, etc. etc.”
“Srila Prabhupada was not pleased. He said that constantly changing things is “our Western disease.” His reply was short and direct. “No! You have made some discovery. All along you have been hearing the recording of Yamuna dasi, and now you want to change. It is not ordinary singing, it is concert. Many people are singing, so it is not bad. Just like sankirtana, many voices are there — men and women; so it is the same thing, sankirtana. I approve of it. Here in the Krishna-Balaram temple we are hearing the same recording every morning. So if it is good here, why not there?”
Yamuna’s transcendental rendering of the Govindam prayers continues as a firmly established ISKCON tradition, and has been heard by millions over the last forty+ years. Let us hope that it continues to inspire hundreds of millions more for the millennia to come. As long as it is played, Yamuna devi remains firmly in our midst and in our hearts.

In my first offering in praise of and to Yamuna devi I focused a little on her chanting.

Another devotional art she was famous for (among many) was cooking.
It was in 1976 that I finally got to meet Yamuna-ji in person. By that time she had started a small asrama in Oregon with her close friend Dina Tarine dasi.
At the beginning of the year she had written to Srila Prabhupada to seek his blessings for their project. They had installed beautiful Deities of Sri Sri Radha Vanabhari

and she outlined their plans for preaching in typical ISKCON style. But Srila Prabhupada’s initial reaction was a little negative, at least to his secretary Tamal Krishna Goswami and her local GBC, Jayatirtha. To Yamuna however, he offered encouragement while instructing her to keep her program simple and concentrate on chanting and Deity worship rather than what he called a “grotesque” program.
Yamuna had of course been one of the first devotees, along with Silavati dasi, to be personally trained by Srila Prabhupada in the art of Deity worship. She was the first pujari of the first large set of Deities in ISKCON Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara

[Who, Srila Prabhupada personally told me on several occasions were his favorites].
[TD1] January 10, 1976 – Bombay
During the massage Tamal Krishna Goswami went over the day’s mail. He read out a letter from Yamuna dasi. She and Dinatarini dasi have a small farm in Oregon. On Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s disappearance day Jayatirtha installed Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Vanabihari there.
They are hoping to start an asrama for senior women, and they requested financial assistance from the BBT to buy a place. Their idea is to have about twelve women and gradually begin a preaching program. Yamuna, however, did express some apprehension, admitting, “Generally women are mad after sense gratification, to dip and gossip, so thus we feel to proceed with careful attention.” In a separate letter Jayatirtha also inquired whether a BBT loan could be given for the ladies’ project. He said the property they are looking at costs $100,000, requiring a down payment of $25,000. He wanted to know what priority Prabhupada gives to this kind of project, suggesting that he might help oversee managerial and financial matters. He also suggested that Yamuna and other asrama members could earn some income and help support themselves by sewing Deity clothes for the sannyasis’ traveling parties.
Prabhupada’s personal opinion is that women should not live independently. “Why don’t they go to L.A.?” he asked Tamal Krishna. Nevertheless, since they are eager to begin the project, he encouraged them. “You can attract the fair sex community. Most of them are frustrated being without any home or husband. If you can organize all these girls they will get transcendental engagement and may not be allured to the frustration of life. Your engagement should be chanting and worship of the Deity.”
He also tactfully laid down strict guidelines for the ladies to follow, stressing that as single women they should live very humbly and not “dress nicely to attract men” nor attempt to start any large program. “In bhakti there is no grotesque program. A humble program is better. We are doing all these grotesque programs to allure the masses. My Guru Maharaja used to say that no one hears from a person coming from a humble, simple life. You remain always very humble.”
To Jayatirtha prabhu, however, he spoke more candidly, describing their desire to be independent as a “defect.” He further elaborated on this by saying that according to Vedic culture a woman cannot live independently. He decided that if they wanted this badly enough, he would allow it. But they must function managerially and financially independent of ISKCON, although he conceded that Jayatirtha could check on them now and then to see if they were chanting and following the rules of the Society. He also made it clear there could be no connection whatsoever with sannyasis.”
He gave further instructions in reply to another letter on February 21 1976 which, in retrospect, became a template for Yamuna’s devotional practice:
Another letter arrived from Yamuna dasi, indicating that she would like to develop a cow-protection program. The impression given was that they wanted to run their women’s asrama along the lines of a big temple.
Prabhupada said in his reply that it is too difficult for women to engage in large-scale cow protection. He recommended that they keep the program small and manageable, with just a few cows for offering milk and sweets to the Deities. He explained that expansion means they will have to take help from men. Therefore he reiterated instructions he had given them previously, “Simply keep yourself aloof from men — chanting, many more times as possible, read books, worship the Deity…. A widow is forbidden to use ornaments, nice sari, decoration, combing the hair nicely. These are forbidden for a woman who is not with husband.”
Srila Prabhupada’s high regard for Yamuna came out later in the year as he began his world tour. Beginning from Melbourne Australia and commencing to Auckland New Zealand and then Fiji, His Divine Grace then camped in Honolulu for the whole month of May. Yamuna wrote to him there in mid-month:
[TD2] May 16 1976 – Honolulu
Yamuna and Dinatarini dasis sent some beautiful photos of their Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Vanabehari, taken at their Gaura-purnima and Chandana-yatra festivals. Their letter enthusiastically expressed their satisfaction in living according to Srila Prabhupada’s recent instructions to them. “We have taken your instructions very seriously and live in such a way as to have virtually no association with men, living a pure simple life in the full fire of Krsna Consciousness. We think this is most beneficial and are factually tasting the results of this simple life. You know what is the proper engagement for each individual by dint of your complete purity. This is your special mercy.” They also mentioned their desire to come and see Prabhupada when he visits Los Angeles, but their inability to do so, due to lack of funds.
Prabhupada thanked them for the photos of the Deities, which he said appeared nicely cared for. As for their coming to see him, Prabhupada was more than happy at the prospect. He was very glad they are taking his suggestions seriously and wants to encourage them. “I am scheduled to be in Los Angeles from June 1 to June 11. I am even contemplating coming to see you there on your farm if you are unable to come to see me. Please continue to develop things there for women devotees as previously instructed.”
As it happened Yamuna was able to come to Los Angeles and with Palika dasi, cook for Srila Prabhupada during his ten day stay. Srila Prabhupada was exceedingly happy to receive her service and dine on first class, devotionally surcharged prasadam.I was also very happy because I was not a cook and had several times proved to be a complete failure at the art. I didn’t mind the slight inconvenience caused by the servant’s room being converted into Yamuna’s kitchen if it meant Srila Prabhupada would get excellent meals:
[TD2] June 2, 1976 – Los Angeles
There is no servant’s room, the old one having been converted into a temporary kitchen, to be used exclusively for the preparation of Srila Prabhupada’s prasadam. Fortunately both Yamuna dasi and Palika dasi, who both learned to cook in India and from Srila Prabhupada personally, will cater for His Divine Grace while we are here. So that is a headache I am relieved of. I sleep on the stairway landing just outside Prabhupada’s bathroom door and keep my luggage in the closet. Pusta Krsna Swami is in the building next door.”
I don’t remember having much association with Yamuna during that visit because she was almost always in the kitchen, but I do remember putting in a request to the managers at the end of our stay for Yamuna to be added to Srila Prabhupada’s party as cook, at least for the duration of his seven week tour in America. Unfortunately she was not able to stay away from herasrama for that long and so Palika devi travelled with us instead.
[TD2] June 11, 1976 – Los Angeles
Since Prabhupada’s arrival here Yamuna and Palika prabhus have been cooking wonderful meals for him, and Srila Prabhupada has been appreciating their service very much. Both are expert and so the prasadam has been to his full satisfaction. I also found out that despite his rejection of avocado in Melbourne, he does like a yogurt and avocado whip called guacamole that they have been giving him.
With Srila Prabhupada’s agreement and after conferring with Ramesvara Swami, it was decided that Palika will join our party for the rest of the American tour in order to ensure a consistently high standard of cooking for Srila Prabhupada. Visakha dasi, photographer and writer from Back to Godhead, will also accompany Prabhupada on his travels, recording his tour for an eventual article in the magazine. Hayagriva prabhu’s interview work is completed and he will remain here.
As for Yamuna’s project, the new GBC for Los Angeles, Ramesvara Swami, had heard that privately Srila Prabhupada had been a little critical of the ladies starting their own project. So he approached him about it:
[TD2] June 5, 1976 – Los Angeles
Since Yamuna has been here, Ramesvara discussed her farm program with Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada suggested that somebrahmacarinis could be sent to her for training. This morning Ramesvara asked if perhaps she could come down to Los Angeles instead because it would be cheaper. There was some suggestion by Tamal Krishna that devotees going there may develop a bit of a separatist mentality from ISKCON but Srila Prabhupada didn’t take it seriously. He simply said he had no objection if Ramesvara wanted to make that arrangement. But when Ramesvara told him that Yamuna objected and that her idea is to make their farm a little bigger, with more women living with them, Prabhupada told him, “I like that idea.”
Ramesvara said there would be no men involved. Prabhupada approved. “Just like in Vrndavana there is bhajan-asrama, they’re only women.”
“So that’s a good idea?” Ramesvara asked.
“With man is dangerous for both,” Prabhupada told him. “I have given that: man is good, woman is good, when they come together — bad. Both of them bad.”
On July 26 1976 Srila Prabhupada met with George Harrison in England for the last time. George came to the Manor and dined on first class prasadam as Prabhupada entertained him in his bedroom. George’s old friends Mukunda and Gurudasa were both there. Gurudasa of course had been Yamuna’s husband when they had first started ISKCON in the UK but now he was asannyasi. When at one point George referred fondly to him, it elicited a response from Srila Prabhupada equally praising Yamuna as a renunciate:
George expressed pleasure at seeing his old friends. “They are looking better and better all the time. It’s nice for me to see Gurudasa. He’s turning into a mountain!”
Prabhupada smiled. Then, referring to Yamuna dasi, he said, “His wife has also [become] sannyasi, renounced. Have you seen her lately? She has cut hair and white dress,

living alone in the temple. Vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga. This bhakti-yoga means vairagya-vidya, means detachment. That is the perfection of life. If we remain attached, that is conditional. Maya has made so many things attractive so that we have to remain attached. And to come out of this attachment is called bhakti.“
The next time I saw Yamuna was in Vrndavana. She was intimately connected with the project there, and instrumental in many ways in the development of Krishna Balarama Mandir but had returned to America before the opening on Ramnavami 1975.

On October 22 1976 she returned and was immediately honored by Srila Prabhupada:
[TD4] Srila Prabhupada was surprised and pleased to receive Yamuna dasi today. She arrived from America just as he was taking his lunch.Normally he doesn’t receive guests while eating, but he immediately invited her to sit with him and offered her a small plate of his prasadam. After eating, they sat together in his darsana room and chatted. She showed him photos of their asrama in Southern Oregon and their worshipable Deities, Sri Sri Radha Vanabehari.
Yamuna has come to ask for Srila Prabhupada’s formal blessings and approval to write a cookbook, something he suggested to her in 1967 but which she didn’t feel competent to do until now, although she has previously written and calligraphed a book entitled Krsna Prasadam but this has not been published. She told him that she intends to remain in Vrndavana for about a week and then go to Calcutta to stay with Mr. C.L. Bajoria, one of our prominent life members. Mr. Bajoria has a first-class cook with whom Yamuna has studied, and she wants to learn more from him about Bengali cooking. She is also planning further research and interviews with Pishima, Prabhupada’s sister.
Srila Prabhupada was most happy with her proposal and gave her his full encouragement.
October 31 1976 –Vrndavana-dhama
Yamuna has prepared Srila Prabhupada’s breakfast several times during her stay and also cooked his lunch a couple of times. Now today she left for Calcutta to take up her cooking research. Srutirupa dasi, who often helps Palika with Prabhupada’s cooking, decided that she wanted to accompany her, and since the two of them were going, Palika decided she also wanted to go. Palika currently has a bad case of weeping eczema on her hands, and this is interfering with her service to Srila Prabhupada. She took permission from Srila Prabhupada after giving assurances that Arundhati would cover her cooking duties, although Arundhati is not as experienced and expert in the art. Last night when Prabhupada called Arundhati in and asked her to prepare iddli for his breakfast, she was quite nervous about it because she hasn’t made them before.
After a couple of weeks in Calcutta Yamuna returned to the west. It wasn’t until 1987 that she finally got her cook book into print. I guess that was reflective of the precision and perfection that she applied to everything she did. When it hit the stores it was a blockbuster and she won numerous awards including the International Association of Culinary Professionals ‘Cookbook of the Year.’

She became a regular columnist in several top newspapers and I remember seeing her in Los Angeles in the early nineties during a national book tour she was doing. She enthusiastically greeted me and I her, as old friends and fellow servants of Srila Prabhupada. I felt privileged that she saw me in that light.
Again this is just a glimpse. I hope by it to show how dear Yamuna was to Srila Prabhupada and how she pleased him by her expertise in cooking, the very first devotional service he engaged her in when she first met him in 1966.

I will finish this small attempt at appreciation of Yamuna devi’s unlimited qualities and character with a few photos and recollection of the last time I saw her personally in 2010 at Saranagati farm in Canada.

Akrura prabhu, the Vancouver temple president invited me over in late May 2010. I hadn’t been there since 1994 so I was overdue for a visit and looking forward to it. But high on my agenda was a trip to Saranagati, a well-known but remote outpost of Krsna consciousness and home to some distinguished residents.

Apart from fulfilling a long standing curiosity about the farm, I was excited because I would be seeing Yamuna. In fact I had written to my wife Sitala “I am only going because Yamuna is there.”

We had had the immense pleasure of hosting Yamuna in Mayapur for two months in the flat next to ours during the winter of2009 so my visit to Saranagati was a kind of reciprocation.

Here’s the report I sent to Sitala on May 30th 2010, two days after. It sums up nicely the visit:

“The trip to Saranagati was well worth it although I was only there half a day and one night. Its a long drive of 4 hrs. I stayed at Kala and Yasomati’s house for Lord Nrsimhadeva’s appearance. They invited friends and relatives and about a dozen people turned up. It was low key but still very enjoyable.”

“Next day we drove up to Sarangati with Krsnadas, Kala’s son, and his Iranian girl friend Asadah. It was a long drive through continuous mountains, with very impressive country side of mainly pine and fir forests and deep river gorges. The area where the farm is doesn’t look very good, a kind of high desert region, but once you climb the dirt road up the mountain side, you come to a plateau and about 3,000 acres of land and forest owned by ISKCON and the devotees. Its quite like a shangrila.”

“There are about 20+ private houses scattered within 2-3 kilometers of each other. We had lunch with a very nice devoteeYoginatha prabhu and Vishakha came to join us. Yadubara is down in LA for the Prabhupada festival.”

“Then we visited the school. Kar and Radha have had a beautiful little boy just three weeks ago, and they run the school.”

“For convenience they have moved into a large room in the school building. They have about a dozen girls and one boy currently in the school and a few couples with children are about to move there. It was a nice set up, very Krsna conscious, and all the kids, who range from about 5-16 yrs. are very sweet, innocent and eager to hear about Srila Prabhupada. I spoke for about 15 mins.”

“Then we went off to Yamuna’s. I was surprised to see a modern looking bungalow.

“I had heard about its straw bale construction and was expecting something a little crude, but its a well designed attractive house. And the interior is exceptionally beautiful, not so much because of its architecture but more because every inch of it oozes bhakti.”

“Yamuna and Dina (who arrived back from Florida just as we were leaving) have decorated every nook and cranny with beautiful expressions of their love for Sri Sri Radha Banabihari. Yamuna is such an artistic and thoughtful person, and her attention to every little detail comes shining through.”

“We spent a couple of hours with her, it was a delight. She is such a deep, sober and good hearted devotee. She was very happy to see me and we had an extremely enjoyable meet. It was worth the trip just to see her.”

That was the last time we met personally. Late in 2010 she became seriously ill, had to go to Mumbai for treatment and ended up leaving Saranagati, never to  return. She and Dina moved south to Melbourne Beach Florida. In mid-August this year while I was on tour in Spain, I was thinking about her a lot and wrote to ask her how she was faring. I received this letter in response on Lord Balarama’s appearance day, my last communication with her:

Dear Hari Sauri Prabhu,
Pranam Dandavats
Sree Balaram Mahotsava keejay

How auspicious to hear from you on this sacred eve. Thank You for thinking
of me at all, what to speak of lately. Truth be told, think of all three of
you often–I have many photos Rama Devi gave me of you, your daughter’s
initiation, and 1500 photos of archa vigrahah in Mayapur dham on my screen
saver. So you are never far out of mind.

Well the free fall that began nearly a year ago ended two months ago
tomorrow, when on June 13th we moved into our eighth floor. furnished beach
front condo rental. We have named the place Melbourne Beach-Puri-by-the-Sea.
It’s a year rental for now. No sale of our Saranagati ashram. In the last
decade, only two families moved there, but more moved out. Time will reveal
that one. Cannot even consider our next move until we sell that ashram.

At any rate, here we are in a clean environment with running water and
enough electricity and we feel blessed to be here. Krsna so very kindly gave
us a swift kick to remove us from Saranagati and place us elsewhere. This
particular dham is most conducive to healing and rejuvenation, and we are
deeply grateful for it.

Taken time to settle in, and so far, engaged almost exclusively chanting and
reading and physical rejuvenation and serving Their Lordships. Here is a
photo of Radha Banabehari taken this morning in the small alter environment
we made for Them in a smallish temple room;

Think you get a peek into our peace and opulence in our lives.

My health: Exercise in the pool daily at dawn (Dina on her beach japa walk)
before morning Bhagavatam class; too good for words. Starting a two week
liver cleanse day after tomorrow as pre-op for a minor laproscopy surgery
August 29th. So in between Janmastami-Vyasa puja next weekend, heading up to
Gainsville three times for doctor appointments and tests. All in all, my
health is slowly but very surely improving for the better, gaining mobility
and strength, as is Dina.

Got my research materials sent down here from Saranagati, and plan to begin
writing in September. Dina will soon begin editing a book from the Radhanath
Swami camp.

Back at you: how are all of you? Health? Any new book volumes out from you?
Sitala still in Poland giving KC as only she can do? Your daughter? Saw an
ecstatic Kirtan online with Madhava at Woodstock.

Your always aspiring servants.
Yamuna and Dinatarine

I don’t know if Yamuna did start writing again. Her book was the one most devotees were looking forward to reading. Now she’s gone, heading off into the sunset of Melbourne Beach and into the eternal sunshine of Goloka Vrndavana to serve her beloved Radha Banavihari and Srila Prabhupada. She will be sorely missed.

I  hope to have the privilege to see you again sometime Yamuna devi.

Hemant Tale

When I was in India, in my college days we had a boys’ camp in Chowpaty temple. A part of our camp was visit to Bhaktivedanta Hospital. I was serving as a volunteer in the camp. So before we take to boys for visit, there was an arrangement for all of volunteers and seniordevotees to visit hospital so that we can later explain to boys thedetails. When we went inside the hospital one of the devotee doctor told us that HG Yamuna mataji is there for her treatment and she is very sick. Immediately her effulgent face and divine voice of the song “Govindam.. Adipurusham” came in my mind, and I prayed to Lord, “O Lord I want to take darsana of this great devotee face to face, please I am so near to her here, I don’t want to miss this opportunity”. We payed obeisances to Srila Prabhupada in the entrance and went towards the elevator, and to our surprise, HG Yamuna mataji came out of the elevator and all of us gave prostrated  obeisances to her and very Joyfully with big smile & loud voice she said “Harii Bol…Harii Bol…” There was not a little bit pinch of pain or tiredness on her face; in fact we got tons of enthusiasm just by her one big smile. Just before some time Doctor said she was sick and now we saw her very very jolly. Where is the sickness? Really such great devotees are not at all on body platform. They simply propagate Bliss to others just by their presence only, no matter they are in any bodily discomforts.

I pray to Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha KunjaBihari to give me a drop of qualities of such great devotees.

Jananivasa das

At 2013 Vrindavan memorial

I think Yamuna Devi is the longest standing pujari. She is actually my guru, she told me to worship the deities in Mayapur, when I got initiation in Mayapur. So she was my first guru, and I have always respected her as such. To be in Yamuna Devi’s presence, is just like being in Prabhupada’s presence, it was like you had to talk about Prabhupada. That was it, there was no question of any other subject matter, you just had to talk about Prabhupada. Like they, you know,  they were inseparably,  inseperable, Srila Prabhupada and Yamuna.  I first met her in 1971, I just walked up the street in Calcutta temple. But they, Yamuna and Guru das and the others, were so affectionate,  and so welcoming and warming to come into the temple. I guess Gurudas could sum me up very well, he looked at me and said, “ Peace, brother.”

And I said, “Peace, brother.” And they just felt, made me feel so good, like part of the family. Coming in, and I thought, “these…” I was looking for beautiful people, beautiful environment and I found it in these people. They had everything there that, perfect philosophy and so. It’s such a nice family feeling you had to stay there, I had to stay. I never left there.

But, the last time I saw her, she started offering prayers. I can’t repeat the humility she had, what she said in her prayer, how she was describing herself in humility. And I was smiling and offering. And then she walked away, like in the middle of saying something, she just walked off.  And I walked (looked?) and then she was doing a little dance, kind of, something strange but funky dance. And she was, she started circumambulating me, and I was turning around, “where is she going?” and then she came back again. {laughing} Anyway, it was a nice exchange. She said that, yeah.. she said, “ you know, we don’t have to…”, she expressed that,” You know,  we don’t have to share those old memories and affections. You know we can, just by seeing in the eye, seeing in your eye we can understand that, like that it’s summarized. We didn’t have to go back and say, you know, how we met and things like that. She had such a loving glance and she was looking at me, we didn’t have to say anything.

There was once that, when she came, after she left India with Prabhupada, she didn’t come back for many many years. And then finally she came, and she came to Mayapur, and she was, she said,” I have to tell you a story.” She said, “ When I was in Vrindavan with Gurudas, we were making Krsna Balarama temple. And then I went to Bombay to see Srila Prabhupada to ask him some instructions.”

So she started to explain, and Srila Prabhupada said,” So you can make Radhe Shyamasundar, They can be life-size.” And she said, “ But Srila Prabhupada, They are already made.”

“You can’t make life-size?”

“No, Srila Prabhupada.”

“ You can get the Astha Sakhi then. You can make Astha Sakhi life-size.”

She said, “But, Prabhupada, the deities have already been made, the altar has been made and…”

“Vishaka and Lalita, you can make life-size.”

“ No, Prabhupada, everything has already been made, and it’s all small size.” Then Prabhupada didn’t say anything else, about this. Then she told me, she said, “ Here look, there is Radha Madhava, and the Astha Sakhis. This is what Prabhupada was talking about. This is what Prabhupada was visualizing.  Because Vrindavan and Mayapur are non-different,” She said, “ This is exactly what Prabhupada told me he wanted, life-size Radha Krsna and Asta Sakhi.”

Yamuna Mataji Ki Jai

Hare Krsna

Thank you very much.

Kishori devi dasi

His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja was admitted to Bhaktivedanta Hospital, and he was bedridden for almost two and a half, three months, and he had never come out of his room. And one day we got te news that Yamuna mataji and Dinatarini mataji are visiting him. Just to see him.  On the first day, he decided that “I will have lunch with them.”

And all of them, Yamuna mataji, Dinatarini mataji and Jayapataka Maharaja, and His Holiness Radhanath Mahraja, all of them had lunch up in the (?) and that was a big even actually for Jayapataka Maharaja actually, to come out of the bed, to come out of the room.   To get in his wheelchair, and have prasada with all his Godbrothers and Godsisters.  And he was so happy to see Yamuna mataji.

We could see that loving relationship. I don’t know their age difference, but like a sister and a brother. She was so loving and encouraging to Jayapataka Maharaja and we felt that this was the first breakthrough in his treatment, to come out.

And he went out, and sat with them ,and had prasadam. She also sang kirtan.

Another exchange with Yamuna mataji is when she came for Pune Yatra.  That year, Radhanath Swami Maharaja told us that every time, all the sanyasis visit, and it is a fun time, a chance for service for all the men.  But this time is for the mataji.  You will get such wonderful association of all the special advanced disciples of Srila Prabhupada.

So every day we would be cooking special things for her. What should we cook for Yamuna mataji?  Because we know that she is such a good cook. So every day different devotees were cooking. So one day I made some preparation, and as soon as she put it in her mouth, she immediately told me the ingredients.  And this was a combination of some difficult items. I was shocked, that she exactly knows the exact ingredients in the recipe.

And then she was saying, “Oh I have to learn so many recipes from you all.”

Pune Yatra was four days, it starts right in the morning chanting, then Bhagavatam classes, prasadam and kirtans, evening questions and answers, and again kirtan.  So almost they were staying at another bungalow, but they would come here for all day program.  My sister, Haripriya was also serving Yamuna mataji.  So we asked once to her.

She said you should always be very fixed in your consciousness about Srila Prabhupada.  Whatever Srila Prabhupada has given as instructions, you must follow. And she told us, that even though I am attending the whole day, chanting, hearing, Krsna katha, and being with so many devotees, still when we go back home, we don’t sleep, with out reading for twenty minutes from Srila Prabhupada’s books.

So that was a revelation for us about how she was so fixed in reading Srila Prabhupada’s books.  The whole day, it was so Krsna consciousness – so much Krsna katha.  Still going back home, she would not sleep, and this would be at twelve oclock midnight. And she had to get up again in the morning. And she would read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

We really enjoyed that period, because we used to get hugs from her and different encouragements. Which is very hard to get in Iskcon, for a mataji, from sanyasis.  And she would really give you big hugs, and you would feel so warm.

One visit to Radha Gopinath, and she paid was Sunday feast, so the feast kirtan was going on. So she just ran out of the temple hall and came into Gopalaji Hall. And she was so happy and so ecstatic. I just happened to come in front of her. And she just hugged me. And she said, “I am so happy, so happy.” And I was thinking, Krsna gave me special mercy. Because she was so happy and I just happened to be there. We have heard that causeless mercy. I

Also when she was here during her sickness, she was very very kind and loving to everyone.  She came in December and many of us were not here. I am a tutor in the nursing school, so when we returned from the Yatra, everyone was saying that on Christmas day, she came down from the third floor.  She sang some Christmas carols for them. Because many of the nurses are Christian. They are from Kerala.  And they were so touched.

You know, they have heard Govindam adi purusam, but when they heard her singing, their prayers, in same beautiful sweet voice, they were so touched.

Whoever she met in the hospital, she touched their lives.

I just came from Moscow, and I met one devotee, this is regarding the Govindam adi purusam CD. There is a devotee, she is Russian, married to an Italian staying in Egypt.  She has a younger daughter so she wanted her to learn ice skating, so she brought her to Moscow. She was confused whether she should have her child learn this, or not. But somehow or other she found a tutor, and the tutor called her to the club, which is right next to the temple in Moscow. So after two or three days of talking with him, the tutor realized that they were vegetarian. And they also visit Iskcon.

So on the third day the tutor said that he wanted to share something with them. In 1986 I got this CD Govindam adi purusam, by Yamuna devi. So I liked it so much, that for sixteen years, I was continuously hearing it.  And in 2007, there was Olympics in Russia, so he liked it so much that he wanted to put it as a theme song in Olympics. And he made it, there was a committee, and he was part of it, so he made them hear the song. And it was played in 2007 Olympics in Russia. It is on U Tube.

So that mataji, she was telling me that now she had an opportunity to preach to that person. She told him about Yamuna mataji. So I was thinking that  some service, which she has done, for Srila Prabhupada so many years back, and still it is affecting so many people’s lives. Because anything she did, I think, became world famous.  The cookbook, her songs.

Even though she didn’t want. Like this song to be chosen for the Olympics in Russian, I don’t think anybody can imagine. Nobody can imagine a Krsna conscious song to be played in Olympics.

So at that time I felt she is a very empowered vaisnava.

Krishna Candra das

At Vrindavan memorial 2013

Our family’s first interaction with Yamuna prabhu was when she visited the RAdha Gopinath temple, and she very graciously agreed to attend our daughter’s marriage.  It was in 2006.  She was not expecting, but during the time of the ceremonies, in addition to his Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaja, we requested her to speak a few words.

Which is not usual, but which was very special for us.  So she agreed, and when she gave her wonderful instructions to the bridal couple, officially right from that time, she had such an amazing impact on all the devotees, including myself and  our family.
I think everyone has said the same thing, but just because I felt the same way I would like to repeat it. She had that amazing way of connecting to individuals, to every living entity, as if she was their real well-wisher, very concerned and very caring.

She was to me, a great inspiration. And really a personification of tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous dedication.  She was so melodious in everything she did. Not just the singing. In everything she could be very unexpected, but also at the same time, invariably very, very personal.

During the time she spent at Bhaktivedanta Hospital, we got a chance to interact with her, and she had mentioned that she would now be moving to Florida for her health. And that she also had to loose weight. So even I had to loose weight, and so did my wife, so she was insisting that we would have to come and we would all go swimming. Because she was doing walking in the pool, and it was very effective. I had not heard of this concept, but apparently it did help her for some time.

So after that, she wrote in two or three letters also, giving the description of the pool, saying you could come with her, and she took everything so seriously.

One amazing thing about her was her way of communication. People can be eloquent and articulate, but it was not that. She really, if you read her letters, any letters, it was as if she put her heart in the letters. So everyone who received the letter, and would feel as if she had so much in everything she did, so much affection.

For instance, my wife would send some dresses, or jewelry for her Deities.  Her love for her Deities, was so amazing that she would reciprocate giving her deep gratitude, making us feel as if we have done something tremendous.

In addition, she would give such detailed descriptions with the pictures of the Deities, wearing the same dress or same jewelry, long descriptions. And we could see that her love for her Deities was so (favourable?)  Anything that she wrote, was always very Krsna conscious, she was so vibrantly Krsna conscious.  But at the same time she was also very personal. It was not just philosophy.

It was always caring, concerned about, every time she would write, she would write about different members of the family, including my grandson asking how he was doing. And always putting herself in a humble position, as if she was receiving a lot, and that she is very grateful.

The last communication we had received was about four or five days before she departed. And she said she was so keen, extremely keen to attend our son’s marriage. Which happened two months ago.

Because we told her so much how we would be anxiously waiting for that. But again in that also, the way she gave her blessings and deep feelings for all the members.

One year after she – on the 11th, of December, which is about five or six days before she left this planet. That was  the anniversary of her arrival in Bhaktivedanta Hospital.

Now I don’t think that any of us remembered, but she took it so, she was so grateful for this. Even though everyone in the hospital considered it the greatest honor, that she came and gave the opportunity to serve her. But she remembered and wrote such a beautiful letter to several doctors who are also here, and probably they will be able to elaborate on it. Saying that today is my first anniversary when I came there, and detailing her how much benefit she received from the hospital. With such great lengths, one year later.

It was as if, I mean, we remember Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day.  She remembered the date she came to the hospital.  So that was her mood, in so much was her, so that anything that anyone did for her, the smallest thing, she felt it was too much. And she was extremely grateful, and was very, very eloquent in expressing her gratitude and love.

In such a way that it captured anyone who read that. So that is what she was really , what she has left a mark on all of us.

Hare Krsna.

Parvati devi

PARVATI PRABHU:  (Obeisances)  It is so nice to see so many devotees gathering.  Giriraja Swami may be happy to know that Yamuna does have a hole in the ground, and I am very happy that I have something to do with it.  Basically, my interaction with Yamuna was very minimal compared to these speakers.  Unfortunately I missed most of them.  But when I did meet her.  She met me as if she had known me all of my life, or many lives.  And I felt very well connected with her and that she was pleased to see me somehow or other. I was sent down by two ex-holinesses who informed me, “Go to Vrndavana, and Yamuna will take care of you.”  And I suppose she did.

The first time I met her, was in Vrndavana. She gave me my first service, which was a simple service, just to wash Srila Prabhupada’s pots.  We didn’t have Vim powder or anything like that – we just had the sand of Vrndavana. By Krsna’s grace, I had been living in Third World countries for so many years before that, it was not an extraordinary thing for me to do.  Just to wash pots with sand.  I washed my own pots in ashes and sand.  But somehow washing Prabhupada’s pots was an extraordinary experience.  And I didn’t understand how, or why, but she was so thankful for it all.  It was such a simple thing.

The women were staying the Radha Damodara Temple, in Prabhupada’s upstairs rooms.  And the magal aratik, we would all come down, after taking a nice cold bath in the water which was running at the right time.  And the Deities would be dressed in white sheets, and the pujari would be in his gumsha, I guess, kind of very casual.  And he would do the aratik, and Yamuna would sing the samsara prayers.  So this was a very wonderful introduction to temple living, because I had never been in a temple before.  Very, very sweet.  Actually transported you right out of whatever you were existing in before.  Right into the spiritual world.  Her presence was like that.

I saw her many years later, in Bombay, when she came through.  And she had a talk with the women up in Prabhupada’s quarters, up in the tower in Bombay.  She talked of the importance of association with each other, and another part of the talk  was about how she was marinating different types of spices in ghee to get different effects.  So that was the effect, the Yamuna Devi had.  To marinate you, in the wonderful association – her association – but also to marinate in the association of the devotees and Srila Prabhupada’s practice. It didn’t occur to me till recently, basically speaking.  But that is basically what she was doing.  She was encouraging us to immerse ourselves in the wonderful process that Prabhupada has given.  Because she devoted her whole being to Srila Prabhupada and his practice.  And whatever it had to offer to each of us as individuals and however it would come out individually.

So basically I saw her maybe a couple of more times in Vrndavana.  As you get older, you become aware of – the changing body is a thing.  And sometimes I would meet her at the altar, Radha Syamasundara, and she was breathing very heavily. Actually at the time I was also breathing very heavily, I had also some health issues.  And I was thinking, “She is really breathing heavily, and that is going to be me in a couple of years or less.”  And I became aware of how the urgency of Krsna consciousness was always at the topmost  of her mind, and it should always be in the topmost of all of our minds.  Also the urgency of engaging other devotees in Krsna consciousness, so that the young devotees – basically that used to be us, speaking of the older devotees who spoke, that used to be us, now it is you.  So if you can just train yourselves before everyone disappears so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, it will be a very wonderful thing.  So that things can progress a little more smoothly.

Of course there will always be some bumps in the road, as someone titled their little video.  But that is okay, because that is the nature of the material world, and that is the nature of the body which we have gotton, and which we are trying to get rid of basically. To go back and join Krsna and His pastimes, and all the rest of the devotees we’ve been with in our Iskcon in the spiritual sky, as Prabhupada used to say.

I can always appreciate Yamuna Devi’s attitude because she was always so glad to meet any devotee, and so glad to engage them in Krsna’s service.  And I am very glad that she passed this mood on to all of you.  Because it seems like that.  When I was hearing the kirtan when we  had the installation of the Samadhi, it was very obvious that we are still a big Hare Krsna family, as Prabhupada wanted. Hare Krsna.  Thank you very much.

Prema Manjari

By my guru maharaja’s mercy, I was fortunate to serve Her Grace Yamuna-devi Mataji toward the end of January 2011, while she was at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital. When my guru maharaja instructed me to assist Mataji for about two weeks at the hospital, I was so afraid, first of all because I did not know her and second because I was thinking that I was not even good at nursing anyone. So I tried to pass this service to other devotees who I thought could do much better than I could. But by Krsna’s mercy, it didn’t work out the way I had planned. Most of the devotees were going to attend a Kartika Yatra with His Holiness Radhanath Swami, so I accepted that I should take over this service as the will of Lord.

Further, my guru maharaja gave me a very good introduction of Yamuna Mataji in the following letter:

My dear Prema Manjari,

Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Yamuna Devi is a very dear, intimate servitor of Srila Prabhupada, and she has a most important mission, to infuse the world with the pure chanting of the holy name. So if you can serve and please her, Srila Prabhupada and the holy name will be most pleased and will bless you. So kindly serve her with all sincerity, intelligence, and humility, and be blessed by this most wonderful opportunity.

(I hope you are aware that she is the lead singer in the recording of the Govinda prayers that we play for greeting the deities daily in every ISKCON temple in the world. In fact, when George Harrison heard her sing he told her that he could make her one of the most famous and celebrated singers in the world, but she declined his invitation, because she wanted to engage in pure devotional service to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.)

Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.

May this meet you in good health and enthusiastic spirits.

Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,

Giriraj Swami

She was such a sweet personality. The first day she met me, even before she could have been introduced to my service, one of her assistant matajis brought me close to her, and Yamuna-devi, who was on her wheel chair just outside the hospital’s Ayurveda department, took my hand and held it for fifteen or so minutes, as she continued to talk with some other devotees. I felt such a transmission of her pure love and devotion into my system that I wanted to never separate myself from her. Her sweet smile and voice kept sinking into my heart, and I was very impressed, from our first meeting. As I was introduced to her, she was told that I was His Holiness Giriraj Swami’s cook and that I was an expert in preparing diet prasada. She seemed very impressed and accepted my cooking service. She was also told that I could manage to get all organic ingredients from Bombay’s organic shops, so she was thrilled, as she was a lover of organic food.

So my main service was to cook, which took me almost two hours every morning. Then I would travel to Mira Road, which took another hour, then I would feed her, which took an hour, and then I would travel back home. I was engaged in this service for more than a month and a half, which I would never have imagined being capable of doing without being empowered by Guru Maharaja and Yamuna-devi Mataji.

Every day, I used to make her baked vegetables—like au gratin—and a baked sweet, like cookies or muffins of different flavors, with fruit and cinnamon according to her preferences, and also salad a few times, and lauki soup for the evening.

Later, the doctor stopped the salads. But she responded to every meal with loads of appreciation for three things: cleanliness, punctuality, and devotion. She said that these three qualities, which Srila Prabhupada had mentioned, are what make a cook perfect.

She would also give me many tips so that I could make better variations to serve my guru maharaja. She also asked me to share my recipes with her so that she could follow them also, and she wrote the following letter:

Thank you for the recipe’s ingredients’ list and for the instructions to make the cookies and muffins. Now all you need to do is forward me the measurements. The recipes are incomplete without this. Then they will be usable recipes to pass on and can be rightfully be called—



So do forward this information on when you have time.

There were a few lessons that I learned that I can never forget:

We can serve guru and Krsna in our minds when we are not able to do physical service. She practically showed me how, on Nityananda-trayodasi and also on her personal Deities’, Sri Sri Radha-Banabehari’s, appearance day, when she wanted to prepare and offer 108 items of bhoga. But she knew that her health would not permit her to do the preparations or offering, so she prepared herself to do manasa seva. Unfortunately, on the day itself she had diarrhea and had to go to the bathroom at least fifty times, but she continued with her mental service, and she said that she was chanting Lord Nityananda’s name at every moment. She prepared a list of 108 items and wrote the ingredients that she would use in each item. She spent five hours doing this mental cooking, which was as much as any person would take to actually cook a feast. Then, the next day, she mailed the list to all of us who were serving her and said that she was distributing maha-prasada and that we should select and comment on the items we liked the most.

The next lesson I learned from her was her mood of service to her spiritual master in separation. She would often ask me what kind of personal relation I had with my guru maharaja. When I would tell her how unfortunate I was, as my guru maharaja did not spend much time in India and it was not very easy for me to serve him personally, she would encourage me with her experiences—how she no longer had Srila Prabhupada’s vapu association, yet felt very close to him by serving his vani. She always felt connected to him in her heart and said that although it was painful, it was very sweet and as good as being with him always, eternally.

At one point of her illness, she was very weak and could not even see her servers, as the doctors had instructed her not to see anyone. So she wrote me a mail and requested me to follow her, as she was taking her role as a teacher to teach me service in separation. She told me to bring only the baked sweet muffins and cookies, and to give them to Gaurangi Mataji and leave without even seeing her.

This is her letter explaining how to serve in separation:

You will have to be like the cook I was for Srila Prabhupada: bring the prasada for respecting and leave unspoken to. That was the norm unless there was some instruction from him how to make adjustments in the cooking, or an occasional comment.

Giriraj Swami asked me to instruct you, so I am passing this on to you. It is a small aspect of a classic teacher-apprentice mood—serve in silence unless spoken to. While I never took a teacher mood with you, this is a rich rasa to explore on different levels.

If you continue to bring baked goods once or twice again, at least you will have access into experiencing the tip of the richness of this kind of service. It is similar to what we do when we offer bhoga on the altar—pray, cook in meditation, deliver, offer, and depart—bas.

I believe you are sincere and mature enough to do this. It was expected of Srila Prabhuada’s cooks as a prerequisite to cooking at all. Hopefully it will bring you to a new level of service, something you can use in your service to your own guru maharaja.

So, please bring the baked prasada any time convenient to you and deliver it to Gaurangi. She has Baggies to transfer them to, and she has your muffin tiffin to bring home.

Thank you for the invitation for your godsister sanga. Unfortunately this is not possible, nor have I been able to attend any similar kind invitations like this. I have not even been able to travel to bow down at the feet of Their Lordships in the Juhu, Chowpatty, or Mira Road temples.

We will be leaving here soon—near a fortnight away.  If I do not see you again, please know how grateful and appreciative I am for both your cooking service and sanga.

kirtaniya sada harih

Your servant(s) both,

Yamuna and Dinatarine

I also was very impressed with the personal loving exchanges that she shared with each one of us serving her. She would greet us lovingly and appreciate each of us for every little service we did, and whenever we would leave her after our service was done, she would hold our hands and ask us to close our eyes and pray for any good thought we had to be fulfilled. I would have only one positive thought—that she should live longer, and be healthy and fine too. I also wanted her to return to her home and her Deities, as she was missing them so much.

I always saw my mother’s figure in her, especially that smile. Who would want to leave such a wonderful mother—ever?

But she assured me in one of her letters that we will always remain together in this world or whichever, either by vani or vapu. She wrote, “As always, we are connected, and will always be together, be it vani or vapu.

gour purnima kee jay

May the full moon of Lord Gauranga fill your heart with love of Godhead.


On the day she left her body, I was traveling by train to Vrndavana, as my guru maharaja was there and I wished to serve him. When I got the news, I felt very sad for a moment, but her loving expressions was the only thing I could meditate on, and in one sense I felt, What is bad about it if she has left us and gone back to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet to serve him directly? When I used to serve her prasada, she would ask me to read the Bhagavad-gita for her. In one of the verses it was mentioned that Krsna is the swift deliverer of His devotees. When she asked me to share my comments on this, I told her that I had full faith in this statement, as I had seen how Krsna swiftly delivered my mother when she was leaving her body. Everything was arranged so perfectly: her sons, who are all devotees, were chanting around her, and she was so peaceful and Krsna conscious while leaving.

So with my little conviction I spoke to Yamuna-devi Mataji whatever I felt, and she said, “Yes, I too feel the same, but when we suffer physically we wonder, “How swift could it be?’ ” I feel that she was being so humble, that even though she could have been overconfident of the fact that she was so close to Srila Prabhupada and could surely get all protection, she lived in a very humble and modest mood.

When she was leaving the hospital, I went with my husband to see her, and she allowed all her team of servants to be with her. We made a circle, with hands joined together, and we sang a round-robin style of kirtana, in which each devotee would lead in turn, one after the other, continuing the same tune that she began. She packed individual gifts for each one of us and showered us with her loving glances and warm hugs. My husband received her thermos flask, and I received a bright yellow chaddar, which I use only for special services.

We miss her a lot, and I feel so blessed to be able to write about her. In Vrndavana too I was asked to speak on her glorification day, and I would never have been able to ever accept that service if I had not had her special mercy. I am a most unqualified servant, but I would do anything to please her, whether I am perfect in it or not, as her pleasure is not in finding faults in us, but in always encouraging us from whatever position we are in.


One morning, when Jagannatha Ratha-yatra from Juhu to Lohkhandwala was soon approaching, I was performing arati at home and looked at my little Jagannatha seated majestically on the altar, and it felt like He wanted me to do something special for Him. I became inspired to blow the conch for the magnificent Lord of the Universe, so I carried my conch to Juhu, and as we approached, I rushed towards the chariots and paid my obeisances to Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra-devi. I took out my conch and looked at the splendid big eyes of my Lord and prayed to Him so that I could please Him. For the next four hours I was blowing the conch and constantly begging for the mercy of the Lord.

As I was on my way back home after the festival, to my shock a senior lady devotee told me not to blow the conch the following year, or ever again, as I was the only one blowing the conch and was attracting the men around. I felt disheartened and perplexed.

Fortunately, the next morning, I was with Pisima. With some hesitation, I narrated the incident to her. She held me real close, comforting me, and told me that every Ratha-yatra wherever she went she reminded all the devotees to bring and blow their conch shells for the pleasure of the Lord, and how auspicious it is to blow the conch. She was surprised that I was the only one blowing the conch and told me to never stop blowing the conch for the Lord. She felt sorry and said, “When the Lord of the Universe has come on the streets to bestow His mercy on everyone, how unfortunate for anyone to look anywhere else but at Him.”

I had no doubt in my mind anymore, and I followed Pisima’s instructions by blowing the conch for the pleasure of the Lord at the next year’s Ratha-yatra, not worrying about the fact that this year too I was the only one. So I take this as my special service and pay my respects to Mother Yamuna for guiding me when I felt so lost.

Pisima always mentioned Dinatarini Prabhu, and I was very keen to meet her. One day, Pisima wanted to have cheelas (flat dosas made of besan, or gram, flour) and coconut chutney for breakfast, so she told me how to make them, and I rushed home and followed her instructions carefully. I returned with her desired breakfast and was intently looking at her reaction when she had her first bite, and she was like, “Wow, Sadhuji, this is the best cheelas and chutney I have ever had,” and that very moment I felt like I had personally served Srila Prabhupada and he was satisfied with my service. That was the day when I had the fortune of meeting Dinatarini Prabhu, who also relished the cheelas, and later I received an e-mail from Yamuna Devi saying, “Thank you for the note pads, light bulb, and best cheela and chutney ever. Both Dinatarini and I will recall with fondness the delicious besan cheelas you delivered our way on previous SundaysLooking forward to next Sunday’s cheelas. Your friend, your Pisima!”

 She also shared how important it was to roast sama rice before cooking it like suji or rawa, on Ekadasi.

I will always love Pisima, cherish her and remember her, and try to live up to her ideals, especially her love for and faith in the holy name. I will miss her sweet voice calling out to me, “Sadhuji.”

I wholeheartedly and sincerely pay my respectful obeisance and tribute to the memories of my beloved Pisima, which I will continue to cherish throughout my life. I will always feel indebted toward her for her dedication to serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission with her melodious voice and celestial cooking and recipes and with her mind, soul, and body—her every bit.

Yamuna Devi’s voice brought me closer to Radha-Krsna. Her incredible love for Srimati Radharani, Krsna, and Srila Prabhupada will be exemplary for future generations.

Pisima is truly love personified. Her intense love for the holy name will always stay with me.

I can only bow my head to her a thousand times in gratitude and strongly believe that, as she said, “We are always connected in heart.”

She truly imbibed the mood of Srila Prabhupada, the one filled with love, care, and kindness.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada’s dearmost daughter, Srimati Yamuna Devi . . . our beloved Pisima! Indeed, she is all equipped with her kitchenware, fresh produce, and exotic ingredients, eternally serving Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and Srila Prabhupada.

Radhanath Swami

At Vrindavan memorial 2013

It is truly our immense good fortune to be together in the holy dhama of Sri Vrndavana to honor one of our beloved guru maharaja’s very dearmost intimate associates, on the day of her disappearance anniversary.  Yamuna Devi.

Srila Prabhupada often explained that the nature of a true vaisnava devotee, is that they have the quality of saragrahi.  One who in all circumstances, seeks the essence.  What is that essence?  Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us that the essence of all knowledge, of all vedas, of all duties, is prema bhakti. Sa vai pumsam…That the supreme dharma in all situations is loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  Such service must be unmotivated by any materialistic selfish desires, and uninterrupted by any situation that may come before us

Srila Prabhupada defined this as unalloyed devotion. That is the essence.  In pratical understanding, to seek the essence, is to deeply receive Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, and to give that mercy to others.  To seek the essence means to go very, very deep.  To be totally absorbed. Absorbed in our hearing S.B. and Bhagavad Gita. Going deeper and deeper into total absorption as we chant the holy names. In whatever service we do, and in all of our relationships.  This quality of saragrahi, is the perfect description of Yamuna Devi.

She offered unconditionally in total absorption, her body, her mind, her heart and her very soul, in everything she did.  Srila Prabhupada would again and again plead with us, to take this Krsna consciousness very seriously.  How Yamuna Devi took that instruction as her heart and soul, in everything she did.  Some examples.  In 1966, she went to 26 Second Avenue, on the invitation of her sister Janaki, to be there for her marriage.

And Srila Prabhupada, gave her the instruction, first time meeting, to help him cook.  He taught her cooking.  How seriously did she take that first little seed of an instruction.  Not only did she become the most accomplished in our whole society, she wrote a cookbook called Lord Krsna’s Cuisine.

And with that name, her cookbook became the number one International cookbook of the year. Her cooking became the standard of her whole society.  She cooked with such meticulous precision to every single detail.
I am remembering once when I went to her home in Saranagati for prasada, her and Dinatarine devi prepared, I think there were six different flavoured chapattis. Each one so unique, so absolutely delicious, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as flavoured chapattis.  They were all natural and organic, and absolutely intoxicating.

Her chanting of the holy names. Srila Prabhupada personally taught her to chant.  In San Francisco, she would quietly just listen to Srila Prabhupada all alone chanting, write down the words to the songs, memorize the melodies.

A few years ago, at our Puna Yatra, she taught everybody, I think about ten different morning melodies that Prabhupada chanted. I only thought that there was only one morning melody.  But this is how intensely she would hear. She sang so many different versions of the morning melody, exactly the way that Srila Prabhupada chanted.

What an absorption.  And how she expressed what she received from Srila Prabhupada.  When she was in London, there is a famous story.  When they were recording that Radha Krsna album, and George Harrison happened to hear her singing all by herself.  She didn’t even think anyone else was around.  Bhaja hure mana,  or bhaja mana hure – it was after the recording, and George had a microphone next to her, and he said, “That’s going to be on the album.”

Her chanting of the Hare Krsna maha mantra. Perhaps the largest selling recording of the maha mantra in the history of the world. More people listened to it.  Number one song in most all of Europe.

And I remember in Cross Maidan, in 1971, when I first met the devotees.  I came into this huge tent, and at that time, Yamuna devi was on the stage, all alone.  Just chanting.  There was only a few people in the crowd. She chanted, playing harmonium. There was no mrdnga, no kartals, all alone.

I had come down from Himalyas, and I was attracted to absorption and meditation, and all these other yogas. But when I saw her sitting there with her eyes closed, chanting these beautiful bhajans and the maha mantra.  I remember I was so deeply affected.  This is love.  This is real love.  This is Samadhi.

And it was her that actually inspired me to stay all day in that tent, until many hours later, Srila Prabhupada appeared.

George Harrison told Yamuna devi that with your voice, I can make you the biggest female vocalist in our generation.  And he meant it.  And he was eager to make her a star all over the western world. But Yamuna devi had no interest in all of that.  Srila Prabhupada was in India, and she was eager to go to India just to render humble menial service to him.

Puja or worship of the Lord.  How seriously she was. I learned from Dinatarine devi that she was at a house in Madras, and she was very attracted  by the beauty of this Srimate Radharani.  And later she came to Vrndavana, under Srila Prabhupada’s instruction. And it was time to establish the Krsna Balarama Temple.  She went to Jaipur, and gave that particular photograph, and gave her own inspiration and instructions to the murti walla, of how to make Srimati Radharani’s facial expression.

And today, as far as I can see, the most famous and popular Deity of Srimati Radharani in all of Vraja Bhumi, in all of the world, is at Krsna Balarama Mandira.  It was her inspiration.

When she performed her puja with Dinatarine devi of Sri Sri Radha Banabehari, Deities that were personally given by Srila Prabhupada to her. The devotion, the love, in every detail in which they served Their Lordships, unprecedented.

Wherever she lived with her Deities, people would go from various parts of the world to have darsana of her Deities.  And when they did, the standards, the decoration, the offerings, they were equal to or better than any Iskcon temple, or any temple in the world.

Many people, including myself, would go all the way to Saranagati, which is really away from everything. Somewhere in British Columbia Canada.  Just to have the darsan of Radha Banabehari and Their most loving servants, Yamuna and Dinatarine devi. I have never seen such home worship as this.

How seriously she took Prabhupada’s instruction in everything. When her previous husband Gurudas prabhu was given sanyasa, Srila Prabhupada personally instructed Yamuna devi to live a life of total renunciation. And basically gave her the same instructions that a sanyasi would have, but without the formality. How rare.  She was a young woman at the time.  She committed her life to follow those principles of total renunciation as long as she lived.

Yamuna devi was at Srila Prabhupada’s side, at practically all of the beginning stages of Iskcon’s most important events. She was there at 26 Second Avenue with Srila Prabhupada when he planted the seed.

She was there in San Francisco.  Through the Avalon Ballroom Mantra Rock Dance and other such preaching events, literally the Hare Krsna movement became known and famous throughout America.

Then she was at Srila Prabhupada’s side in London. Where through the making of their records, their performances, their cultivating the Beatles and other such person, she helped Srila Prabhupada make Krsna consciousness famous throughout the world.

And then she was called to India. And she travelled at Prabhupada’s side throughout this country. And was eventually assigned to come to Vrndavana.  Srila Prabhupada’s eternal home. Srila Prabhupada gave her and Gurudas the task of establishing a temple here.  Something that was not only a sacred vision of Srila Prabhupada, imagine, he lived in Radha Damodara temple for about six years. And It was his dream to bring people from all over the world here.

He entrusted that service to Yamuna devi and Gurudas prabhu. And in those days, it was so difficult.  So many obstacles.

I remember one of the most transforming experiences in my own personal life.  In 1972, I already had to leave Vrndavan, because of my visa. But from Nepal, I came just for a week  And when I came back to Vrndavan, Yamuna devi and Gurudas prabhu were staying then at Radha Damodara temple.

And I would sit with them, for hours and hours and hours, and help them with some seva.  When they would talk to each other, the only thing they ever said, hour after hour, day after day, is, “What will please Srila Prabhupada?  This will please Srila Prabhupada.  This is what Srila Prabhupada wants.”

I had never, ever experienced anything like this.  Such total devotion, total absorption in pleasing the guru.  It was from Yamuna devi that I first got a glimpse of understanding what is guru nistha.  What is faith in guru.  What is guru seva. What is that total absorption, where every word, every act, every thought, is an offering of love to one’s spiritual master.

And I remember thinking at that time, because I had met Srila Prabhupada, and accepted him as my spiritual master.  This is the standard I must strive for. This is pure devotional service.

Yamuna devi could be as grave and stoic as an ancient sage.  And she could be as playful as sweet and humouros as a gopi.  Was her nature, and how she affected peope’s hearts.  Because she received, with such gratitude and such surrender, Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, she was inconceivably empowered to give that mercy.

I would like to conclude with a reflection.  One time Srila Prabhupada was sitting and he said that, Krsna had taken away my family, and now He has given all of you as my children. And how Srila Prabhupada sacrificed his life for his children.  More than any biological parent can conceive of.  And I was thinking of how Yamuna devi inherited that spirit. She had no biological children herself. But the second generation of our movement. She gave her heart and soul, her everything to care for, and to inspire our children. They became her children. As far as I can see, I don’t think there is anyone in the history of our society since Srila Prabhupada, that has had the effect of inspiring, empowering our second generation of children born of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, equal to Yamuna devi. She loved these children. She cared for these children. And she gave them what Srila Prabhupada gave her. Unalloyed pure devotional service.

And much of the future of our movement is going to be the influence that she has had on these young people.  In this sense, she was like that with  everyone and anyone that were willing to open their hearts to her.

When she was at Bhaktivedanta Hospital, just earlier the year – last year actually.  She was there for several months.  Her health was in such a critical condition. But yet she was giving of herself, in such a way, that everyone there, was completely enlivened, inspired, enlivened.  The entire Bhaktivedanta Hospital was totally grateful, to be in that place simply because they could serve her.

And the type of devotional service, the  of lstandard of love that she exemplified will never be forgotton. I will give an example.  Hopefully Radha devi will tell the story later.  It was Radha Banabehari’s appearance day, and They were in Saranagati and Yamuna devi was in Mumbai.  And she had dozens of people cooking offerings for Them.  She would write down the recipes – I don’t remember if it was a thousand preparations or hundreds of preparations, whatever it was. They all made these preparations in their minds.  And then she wrote the whole feast that she had prepared in her mind, and she sent it my internet.

And she said, “Now the offering has been made.”  That was her absorption.  No, those devotees will never, ever be the same.  She totally conquered our hearts.

While at Bhaktivedanta Hospital I saw how simple housekeepers, cooks, doctors, administrators, and even one of the most famous people in all of the entire western world came to see her.  I was shocked.  This person was in total awe, with his hands folded, and his wife, just in the aura of Yamuna’s devotion. He had never experienced anything like that in his life.

Yamuna devi – she was to me and to so many others, she was our mother, our sister, our friend, our worshipful goddess.  Because she embodied Prabhupada’s love, Prabhupada’s mercy, with such depth, with such absorption.  She really taught us how to seek the essence.

Her passing from this world was so perfect.  Yamuna devi never wanted fame. She never wanted prestige. She only wanted seva.  Selfless service.

At Bhaktivedanta Hospital she would call me regularly and say, “I am leaving this place.” She was still in critical condition. I said, ‘Why are you leaving this place?”  She said “Because too many people are serving me, I don’t like to be served.  I like to do things myself.”   “But if you leave you will die.”

“Better to die than to accept so much service.”  This was her nature.  I said, “Don’t you understand?  Please understand. They see Srila Prabhupada in you, more than they have ever seen him before in anyone. By your accepting their service, you are connecting them with Srila Prabhupada.  You are doing the greatest service to them.” She said, “Really?”  I said, “Definitely, you can ask anyone.”So she said, “Alright then, then to serve them, I will stay.”

It was just the way that she would want to go.  After being with some of her favourite loving people, the youth of our society, and having kirtan. She went to take rest, and she got up, and with her japa mala in her hand, sitting down, totally absorbed in the sweet sound of the holy names, with no one but Prabhupada, and Krsna and Radha with her, she left.

And she would probably, Dinatarine was saying yesterday, she would be very angry if she saw all of us together like this.  But because she is saragrahi personified, I think that behind that anger, she would seek the essence of the genuine gratitude and love that we have for her.  And the unlimited debt that we owe her.

Srila Prabhupada said about her, something that I never heard him say about anyone.  He said, “Yamuna has attained bhava. Love for Krsna.”

And she lived and she will live forever in our hearts to inspire us with that love.

Yamuna Devi ki jai!

We owe a great debt to Janaki devi for bringing Yamuna devi to Srila Prabhupada. We owe a great debt to Dinatarine devi , because as Yamuna devi’s most intimate loving associate for so many years, she is now going to present to the world, for all time to come, Yamuna Devi’s autobiography, Unalloyed. And we are so eagerly awaiting. Thank you so very much.

Introduction of Yamuna Devi, Chowpatty, 2006:

And now for the crescendo of my introductions, the senior most amongst all of us, we have with us, once again after five years, Yamuna devi prabhu.  She first met Srila Prabhupada in 1966, at 26 Second Avenue, in New York city, she came for her sister Janaki’s marriage to Mukunda.  At that time, she alone assisted Srila Prabhupada personally in cooking the entire marriage feast.  And by that association with Srila Prabhupada, she gave her heart, her soul, her life, to his loving service, eternally.  Along with Gurudas, Syamasundara prabhu, Malati prabhu, Janaki prabhu, Mukunda prabhu, they started the first temple in San Franscisco, the first temple in London, In fact, every morning we hear her singing, Govindam adi purusam..  which was a record produced by George Harrison of the beatles.  One time a man complained to Prabhupada, about why we are listening to a woman singing every morning for greeting the Deities, worldwide, by Prabhupada’s order.  But Srila prabhupada compared her singing to a transcendental symphony beyond all material considerations.  Therefore it is an established tradition, that in over five hundred temples we hear her singing, every single day. I first met her in Cross Maidan in Bombay, and next in 1971, she was living at the Radha Damodara Temple.  She was with the first group of devotees, to establish the iskcon movement within India.  I could speak for many hours, but we want to hear her speak, but she has done so much to transform so many hearts, over the decades.  Prabhupada  said that she had attained bhava, or love of Krsna.  There wasn’t many people Prabhupada said that about.  And being taught cooking by Srila Prabhupada she wanted to share it with the world, so she wrote a cookbook, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine, and it won almost every international award as the cookbook of the year.  And she is simply glorifying Krsna through everything she does.  I have been pleading with her to come, for many years, and somehow, by Radha Gopinath’s causeless mercy, she has made her appearance, and she refused to give class today, but due to the intense desire of all of us, she has surrendered.  So our speaker for today will be Yamuna devi prabhu.

Sharad Kale

Please accept my humble obeisances, All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga  !

In memories of H.G. Yamuna Mataji, I would like to share some personal experience which I had with her….

I am Sharad Kale came in association of Hare Krishna devotees during 1998 with IYF, Pune. Under instructions of HG Radheshyam prabhu, HG Gaursundar prabhu and HG Premanidhi prabhu I took shelter at Surabhikunj Bace.

At the house of HG Krishnachandra Prabhu (Mafatlal Bunglow) ‘Pune Yatra’ is the topmost festival for us to serve devotees. In Pune yatra, during the year 2001-2002, HG Yamuna Mataji, HG Malati Mataji along with HH Radhanath Swami maharaj were boosting the enthusiasm of devotees with sharing the divine pastimes of  Srila Prabhupada. I am experiencing most wonderful days of my life as my most favorite song , Govindam adi purusham tamaham bhajami… whose singer, HG Yamuna mataji is personally with us and  showering mercy upon the devotes. We are so much inspired with the service attitude of Srila Prabhupada disciples and their love for beloved  spiritual master.

On the day of Nagar sankirtan, all devotees gathered at Lord Vishnu mandir, old mandai, Pune. After pushpa abhishek to Sri Laxmi and Sri Narayana, HH Radhanath maharaj led harinam sankirtan towards Shaniwar wada. Thousands of devotees were dancing on the road. Pune city was flooded with Harinam sankirtan – ‘Hare Krisha Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’.  HG Gaursundar prabhu gave me service of lifting umbrella on Srila Prabhupada on the chariot. The chariot was wonderfully decorated and Srila Prabhupata sitting on vyasasan looking the generous ocean of devotees. The scene was like as HH Radhanath maharaj leading harinam sankirtan, all prabhujis in a row in front of  Srila Prabhupada chariot and behind that all matajis taking harinam. I am very fortunate that I’m experiencing all the event as my position was at the centre but, little worried about not taking part in dancing in the Harinam sankirtan. One thing here happened that the umbrella was not small; it covers all Vyasasan of Srila Prabhupada. I’m holding the umbrella in one hand and by other hand taking support to stand behind Srila Prabhupada. Little austerity was barely standing on a poor space of middle corner of the chariot. My half heels were in the air and half on the chariot. This event was going on more than two hours. Lord Krishna was testing my tolerance. Suddenly got relief as my standing austerity ends as I got support to stand well. Became astonished as HG Yamuna mataji and HG Malati mataji understood my situation and support my feet with their personal hands. With smile asked me – Are you ok, Prabhu…? I had no wards to speak. HG Yamuna mataji and HG Malati mataji replied, ‘Jaya Prabhupada’. HG Yamuna mataji watched me, I am serving Srila Prabhupada, he is in difficulty, any how we should help him to continue his service, and without wasting time mataji help me. I stunted with their love towards Her beloved spiritual master His Divine Grace Abhay Charanarvinda  Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Taking the holyname of the lord, ‘Hare Krisha Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ and smiling they keep me in the service of Srila Prabhupada. With this small incidence, I really got supremely charged with enthusiasm to render services unto the devotees of the Lord.

Sri Nathji

At Vrindavan memorial 2013

Hare Krsna.  I didn’t know that I would be asked to speak.  Yamuna mataji and Dinatarine mataji were kind enough to stay at our house when they had come for darsans at Radha Gopinath Temple, on the invitation of Radhanath Maharaja.  It was our great pleasure and privilege to have them as our house guests.

Originally, I think it was somewhere in 1973 or 74, Giriraja Maharaja gave me the first – it used to be a cassette tape of Yamuna mataji’s singing. Including the Govindam prayers. And that is how – I had never met her – never seen her picture – but I heard her.  And I thought this was the sound and singing from the spiritual world. It did not seem earthly, from this earth.

And I kept on playing that tape until it was totally worn out  Everyday.  I remember that. But I heard that Yamuna mataji would be coming.  I think she came here to Vrndavana.  My father-in-law, that is Krsna Chandra, and me, and my wife, and some others, we came down here. And there was no temple here, but they had just bought this land.

This was Ramana Reti. Extension  Gurudas prabhu was here, and he wsa explaining what a wonderful project this would be coming up.  This was the first introduction I had to Vrndavana.  This must have been 1975 or 76

Yamuna mataji was very fired up.  Very capable. And I thought she was Shakti personified.  This was my first impression of her.  In our philosophy Shakti is femine – the soul is of course femine – but I thought that she embodied this philosophy.

She was such a powerful person. Very sweet, capable, but at the same time she was very powerful.

I remember one time she got angry at me.  She got very annoyed.  Because I was trying to praise her. I don’t know Visvarupa – you were there – you toldme that she was upset with me, and I had to apologize to her. You told me to apologize to her.

I transgressed our relationship with Yamuna mataji  by being a little too informal I think. Is that correct, Visvarupa. I was acting, I was going to be on the stage, for one of those plays. And Visvarupa told me at that time.  Was it in the theatre?

So immediately I sent a SMS because we couldn’t talk to her.  She was so kind that she immediately sent back a reply.  I was shocked.  I didn’t realize that she was good at SMS and these modern techniques also.

She immediately thanked, and said, “Oh I don’t take it personal, anything.”  She was so kind, very kind.

Particularly my wife loved her too much, and

Thank you….

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

When Yamuna Mataji was seriously ill at Bhaktivedanta Hospital in December 2010, I went to see her as I was informed that she was in a very serious condition. As I entered her IC Unit, her eyes suddenly sparkled and she was very anxious to talk to me.  She held my hands  and enquired how was my wife and she was all praise for my wife’s devotional service. In return I mentioned that we are following her (Yamuna mataji)  example and she has definitely been a great leader. She suddenly became humble. I asked her what has been the greatest moment in her life to which she replied that she used to sit down at the feet of Prabhupada and listen to him and she used to be extremely happy. She also liked to cook for him. Many times, it was challenging but at the end the result was excellent, since the smile of Prabhupada and his blessings were more than she deserved.

In between, she got a phone call from Giriraja Swami. She was very excited as he called from USA and there were very loving exchanges like a brother and sister. Giriraja Swami was naturally very keen to enquire about her health. During that time I stepped out, as it was a private call, and  I talked to the doctors concerned and they replied that if she had come earlier it would have been better, as considerable time has elapsed when she was not attended to so well medically. Her situation was indeed very very grave.

After her conversation with Giriraja Swami was over, I went back again to her room when she told me how she very much appreciated staying at our house with Dinatarine Mataji. Thus, in all, we had very good discussions about her realization of Krishna Consciousness. She kept  emphasizing on loving devotional service to the Gurus and senior devotees, friendship with equals and giving good encouragement to juniors.  I thanked her for giving me good encouragement and advice.

Sukishori devi dasi

I met Yamuna devi dasi on 9 or 10 th December2010 I can’t recall. I met her when she was in ICU at Bhakti vedanta Hospital my service (for which whole life I will be really grateful to H.G Vishwaroop prabhu & his Kind wife  Brajeshwari mataji )   was to serve her prasadam for afternoon & stay all afternoon if she needs me. So after serving her prasadam she chanted sorry sang prasadam mantra & honored prasadam asking me how it was made so I told her I didn’t make I just brought it up for her she asked me about my plan so I told her I will be with her till my sister comes to take my place she said,” its very boring sitting here, I want you to go back to your office no need to stay.” I tried to tell her that I was on leave  but she asked me to leave. So afterwards they put the curtain on around her & she slept not knowing that I was sitting outside the curtain area.  May be after one hour or more than that I heard her shouting in pain Gauranga Gauranga . so I ran to help her but in such situation any ordinary person will forget everything & ask help from you but Yamuna d.d. the moment she saw me instead of her pain, she started slapping my hand shouting bad girl bad girl, you are a bad girl, you lied to me, you stayed , its so boring you sitting here. She was more concerned about me getting bored than her pain. I smiled & asked her what was the problem she told me she had a cramp in her leg & she could not move her leg so I put her leg in right position as she wanted. After that I had got afternoon shift, so one day she had a diherea so I was taking her to toilet every now & then, every time I will go with her she will start glorifying me as if I was doing something which no one can do. She will again & again repeat your Guru Maharaja will be really pleased with your service, you are amazing etc.

About Yamuna Mataji one thing was very special she was so much attached to instructions of Srila Prabhupada, she had a habit of relating everything to her spiritual master Srila Prabhupada like once she was eating orange & she was telling me pastime of Srila Prabhupada how he wanted orange once but they did not get fresh oranges so they went to all shops in Vrndavan to get orange & they kept collecting & when they could not find they went to Mathura & later went to one more place (which I can’t recall) till they got fresh & juicy orange & at the end she told they had a room full of oranges.

Then one day I told her that I made a pomegranate juice for one guest & she told me one more pastime of Srila Prabhupada & pomegranate juice. I sometimes thought one can play a game with mataji you can give her word & she can tell one pastime of Srila Prabhupada related to that word. Once I heard she was telling one nurse that her spiritual master had very strong senses just by looking at or smelling at dish he can tell what was missing or what ingredient was used. Once we were talking about spices then she told me Srila Prabhupada taught her to make fresh spices every time she will cook.

Once I made palak panir as per her instruction, she used to leave a note for me which will have recipe for that day’s dish. So I made as per recipe & I was scared because it was first time I was experimenting palak panir that also on one of the greatest cook in ISKCON. i was praying to whole disciplic succession & to Radha Rani while making & serving her. When she ate her first bite i.e chapatti with palak panir she closed her eyes & said, ”you know sukishori ,your recipe is better than mine even I would not have made it like this. & after some times she said,” this is something on which Prabhupada would have commented”. After some times she said you have one thing you do exactly what you are asked to do. She said,” I can see you are already attached to your spiritual master but try to hear more & more from him & carry his instruction in your heart & your spiritual master will always be there with you”.

Whenever she will honor Prasadam I will read nectar of Instruction for her & sometimes she will ask me to take prasadam  in front of her & she will read it for me. She was more like a friend very simple at the same time very caring & loving like a mother.

Following is the instruction I received about cooking by H.G Yamuna d.d. through mail

: the more experience you gain, the more control you will have over the outcome of a dish.

the bottom line: heat, salt and all aspects of taste, are subjective.

what is hot to one is not hot enough to another.

the heat factor is experienced differently by different palates.

when in cooking service to others, we try to do as they ask, with care and prayer.

in the end, experience is one of the best teachers.

you are relatively new to cooking, but you are a good cook, and will surely get better.

don’t be so hard on yourself.

She never acted like she was above sixty,she was very simple like a child & a very good friend. She was the one with whom you can share anything with so much ease & comfort.  She filled us with so much unconditional love & care we could not think of any one but her whole day & night. Later we kept a nick name for each other Yamuna mataji called me wonder Girl, my sister was super girl, Kishor prabhu was wonder boy & we named her V.V. I. P lady (very very important lady).

Joke : one day she was dressed up to visit Hinduja Hospital so when I looked at her she asked me about her new dress so I told she was looking great then said,” yes, do I look like a fashion model”. I said yes. & she smiled & left.

When I & my sister was leaving on 2nd june for her wedding we were exchanging gifts. Mataji had kept surprise gift for both of us. We were crying especially my sister then mataji started teasing her ,” oh look again this tear machine has started. Then she held our hand & asked us not to cry. She explained that we are connected at spiritual platform & will never be separated, wherever & whenever will chant we will always be together. She told both of us that ,” whenever you need me just chant Jamuna Jamuna Jamuna three times & your pishima will be on left side, right side & in your heart to guide you to protect you”.  She said,” now m not crying but when you people will be gone I will cry alone,.”

Once she told us that  she & her sister mother Janaki served Srila Prabhupada & now she is being served by two sisters, a day will come when we will be served by two sisters.

There are 3 month of memories which I can go on & on sharing but I don’t know how much I am allowed to share so I would like to stop here. Always missing you mother Yamuna.

Following is the last mail addressed to me & my sister, which I received from mother Yamuna, some times I hope for miracle of receiving her mail again.

Hare Krishna.
Dear Sukishori and Manorama wonder and super girls,
Pranam Dandavats
Jaya all things Krsna conscious

On this auspicious disappearance day of our iskcon founder acharya–srila Prabhupada–wanted to write you at last.
have been wanting to do so since getting your emails some time ago.

today is the day to pay attention and respect and service to the person that created the spiritual world we all reside in.
the reason we are able to live in the spiritual dimension of bhakti.
the balm that soothes the souls of all devotees that span the globe.

this is a day to also thank the whole disciplic succession, not only your siksha and diksha gurus today, but our spiritual preceptors before srila prabhupada.
we are so blessed to have this mercy and solace.

its been almost 8 months since leaving mumbai, and our lives have been rich with experiences to help us grow closer to krsna, the holy name, and the nine processes of devotional service. we now live in florida, not saranagati village british columbia in canada.
the setting is very different than canada and conducive to getting health care and nice devotee association.
truly, whether here or there, the process is the same, just different settings.

difficult to be chatty with news on such a day.
feel the need to chant more, read more, and go deeper into trying to commit to the loving service of my beloved guru.
the best way to show you a bit of our world is to send a few pictures your way.

one thing–if i don’t write, let that be okay.
I am always praying you well, encouraging you from a distance to follow the process of krsna consciousness, to take shelter of vaishnavas and serve them, and grow your devotional creeper.
you are. and will always be, very dear to both dina and i
we are always connected in heart.

love and hugs
your pisima friends and servants,
yamuna and dinatarine

Visvarupa das

At Vrindavan memorial 2013

It was our greatest fortune to have Yamuna mataji with us.  I was looking after the support services – prasadam, clothing, and so many other requirements she had.  And I could see that she was so simple and her requirements, she was always embarrassed. Whatever we would do, she would be very embarrassed. I know Maharaja said that she wanted to leave because so many devotees were serving her.

She was so grateful. So grateful.  We had a great, great job, searching for organic ahimsa clothes for her. A great adventure that we had. From Gujarat to Jaipur all of Bombay we searched, and she was very happy, finally when she got that organic ahimsa cloth.   I made about six pairs of dresses for her, and she was really really happy

I shall remember when she went from hospital. I had the fortune of accompanying her in the car.  The driver who was driving her, she had made such wonderful relations with him. He was kind of a budding devotee. He drove her to hospital and other places regularly.  And she had such loving relationship with him. I could see what a magnamious and loving personality she was to affect a simpe person like that. When we were in the car, she sang full Govindam prayers with us, right from hospital to the airport.

And she made the driver also sing, we all sang together. I was feeling so fortunate, that the record, the song that is sort of world famous song, that all of us sing, the only lady devotee who’s voice is being broadcast all over the world at 7:15 in the morning, that same lady mataji, devotee, is singing live for us.  This is the greatest blessing of Prabhupada upon us.  To have such an intimate experience. She sang the Nrsmha prayers, and then she made me call his Holiness Radhanath Maharaja in the car.

And she was glorigying each and every devotee I the conversation.  This beautiful devotees have taken such good care of me.I am so grateful to them. They were interacting on the phone.  I was feeling very fortunate to be there. She gave me so much of love.

In the guise of having so much fluid in her body, she let me touch her feet so many times, to see the (inaudible)  It was her kindness.

She was very, very motherly. Very overly vatsalya, I could feel to her.

I want to relate to you in brief – this was not the first time she came – before that many years back she had come. For the first time. She was standing for the sistaka prayers that we sing four times in the day, every day before the shift of service begins

And when she entered somehow that prayer was going on, and she came, and she was simply weeping and weeping, and weeping, all throughout the prayers.  Then she distributed the prasadam which we distribute after the prayers, with her own hands.  All the employees and people were there.

And I remember that visit of hers, I never saw her not crying. Constantly she was crying, all throughout. And my wife would cook for her, and every morsel, she would just close her eyes and just eat and glorify and next morsel, eat and glorify and cry. Cry and eat, cry and eat.

At that time we understood that this must be definitely bhava.  We always read in Rupa Goswami’s book.  But I could see personally, what bhava must have been, could have been, or maybe it is, through the personality of Yamuna mataji.

I cannot imagine how one can be ecstatically crying every moment, all throughout the number of days that she stayed. It was 2001, that time (inaudible) took place in Gujurat.  She came and I had to leave for some time, but she was all the time (inaudible)

With tears in her eyes.

She was so appreciative of the devotees that Prabhupada’s movement had created, and she was thanking Prabhupada again and again.

So it was the greatest fortune of ours, we are not qualified, but somehow she gave us the dignity and that happiness and bliss by being there for such a long time. She stayed for three and a half months.

There are so many details from that stay, but we had the opportunity to serve her.  I remember one time, somebody told her, “So Mataji, did you enjoy the prasada?”  She said, “What?  What is the meaning of enjoyment?  You are never supposed to enjoy prasada.  You are only supposed to serve the prasada by honouring it.”   Such a starkly statement she made.

Also another time , she was so embarrassed that we were all cooking for her, so many matajis are engaged, and so many are coordinating for her. So she said, “no, no, now I will cook for myself.”

So we all discussed and we said, okay, let us make her comfortable.  Our job is to make her comfortable. So she brought all the ingredients and set up a kitchen in her room. So some matajis that had lost their service, they were meeting with her and helping her cooking. And she actually demonstrated the cooking, and how one should meditate deeply on Krsna’s satisfaction while doing that cooking. She was demonstrating. And finally when she finished the item, she said, “Now offer it to Krsna, and Krsna will be very pleased.” But we were sure that the way she cooked, Krsna must have honoured while getting cooked only. The way she demonstrated that personal example was so beautiful it was so beautiful.  And she presented me a grater and rock salt, in a nicely labeled hand written thing.

That event Dwarkadish prabhu was explaining that an unforgettable event.  She was so personal. She enlisted a big, big list, and everybody had a hand written small gift. Most treasurable thing in our life. That gift, whatever it was, the love was so overwhelming, suffice for one’s whole life, she expressed to us.

I will be ever grateful to Srila Prabhupada and my gurudeva Radhanath Maharaja and Krsna.  It was an impossible thing, but at least towards the end of her life we had such close interaction, and we could relish her personal association

So thank you very much.

Hare Krsna


At 2013 Vrindavan memorial

Visakha prabhu started speaking yesterday morning after class, as the servant of ceremonies, and actually said so beautifully, what everybody who associated with Yamuna might not have put into the same words, but thought and felt of her friendship and her association.  And when you said that the first time you saw her she was listening to Srila Prabhupada.  And tears were coming from her eyes, and Prabhupada’s words were like rivers flowing into the ocean of her heart and unlike an ordinary ocean that does not overflow, her heart was overflowing with love.

And then yesterday, Jahnavi was speaking, and was saying basically the same time, that everyone who came in contact with Yamuna felt her love.  And in this little booklet, that some of you might have seen already, Dinatarine says the same thing.  That whoever came in touch with Yamuna, she was able to draw from their heart, this very special element of affection or love, devotion, bhakti. Just that combination of love and devotion.  It was just so rare actually.

And Yamuna did the same thing with me.  I met her 18 or 19 years ago, here in Vrndavana. And it was immediately just an exchange of love. In the simplest way  We didn’t speak so much, but there was instant love, and the next time I saw her, I spoke to her a few times in between. The next time I saw her was actually in Mayapur, the last time she was there. And we had the Saranagati chanting every night.  And I think the most striking thing about Yamuna was her love.  There are only  so many ways you can say it.  Everybody is saying the same thing.

But we don’t see it so often. And I think in Yamuna, the tangible, indentifiable and attractive quality of her was that love, and we felt that despite our conditioning, and you know, the girls speak of their relationship with Yamuna.  You were born into this movement.  For those of us who joined, it is a different structural formation of how we come and what we bring with us.  You know there are so many obstacles to attaining that simplicity of loving devotion.

But in seeing Yamuna we could see actually what it was we were trying to attain and how, not how easy it was. But how simple.  She was very simple in her loving affection. And it made everything very easy when we were.  When she was last in Mayapur – in the mornings, Dinatarine would take everyone to some different pilgrimage places and we would chant.  I didn’t go often I wasn’t able to do so much physically, we had recently had a car accident. But we went to Bhaktivinode Thakura’s house one day, and Yamuna was also not very well at that time.  So we would go on a rickshaw.  We would get one of the flatbed, Haribhakti would arrange one of the flatbed rickshaws and Yamuna and I would go together.  The disabled vehicle we called it.

And it was possibly one of the reasons, that I was glad of having that accident, because it put me on the same rickshaw as Yamuna. And we would travel around to some of these places. When we were going to Bhaktivinode’s house.

When we went there, everybody was riding their bikes, and crossing the river separately, not all coming together.

Somehow, Yamuna and I ended up there together, quite ahead of the pack. And we went into the mandira and it was empty and we just sat down and started chanting japa.  It was very very quiet there. You know Bhaktivinode Thakura’s house is very beautiful, at the right time of day it is it’s own planet. It is so beautiful.

I was watching Yamuna, and you know, again, she was, tears coming from her eyes, and her eyes were closed and she was chanting. And I watched her for a little while, and I thought, I wish I could chant like that She is very fortunate. She is very lucky.  She can chant like that any time that she likes.  It just seemed like a very ordinary thing. In some ways. Although it was very extraordinary to watch her chanting and to be with her.  I assumed foolishly that it was just something she would ordinarily do.

And she would always lean into me and rest her head on my shoulder, which was the sweetest thing, to be that close to her. And she said, “Vraji, you know what?”  I said, “What?”  She said, “that was the most ecstatic Krsna conscious day I have ever had in my life.”

I felt like such a fool. Because I took for granted, what she never took for granted, which was the association of somebody like Bhaktivinode Thakura, his love his affection  for everybody who gave their hearts to him, so readily, which she did.

And for her it was like, she meant it. It was the most ecstatic day she had ever had in Krsna consciousness. That just struck me as such an alarmingly innocent and simple and loving side of Yamuna that was very regular in her dealings And in the things she said and did.

I felt like a fool. Because I took something for granted that she really didn’t And every experience she had it really was like the spiritual world. You know every experience is knew, you know, you’ve never experienced before. And I thought, well she is really living in that consciousness, of the spiritual realm, that every experience she has is the most amazing one she ever had.

And I am sure she said that many times. That this was the most ecstatic day I ever had in my life. And I can imagine that she said it so many times. So on the way back, after she said that, she started chanting, singing.  I just remembered that when we were listening to her sing. She sang hare krsna, and she just got to the end, and she just lifted her head, and said, “sing Vraji”. And when I hear her singing now, I remember hearing her voice just saying  so simply, “Sing Vraji”. And the very beautiful way, I mean all of you, I was watching everyone in the room just now when we were chanting.  The chanting was very sweet. Just listening to all of you was so sweet. And you know one thing that Yamuna was able to do was make chanting so beautiful. When I was with her and I chanted with her, and I watched her and I listened to her, I felt that the holy name was so beautiful. And I chanted so beautifully. And she made chanting beautiful. And she made me feel that my chanting was beautiful. And that everybody around me was chanting beautifully. And that can just continue as long as we have these sound mechanisms to bring her voice to us

And more than that, her legacy of the girls that she left behind – with the girls that she had contact with like Haripriya in Mayapur, that time after Yamuna left, and Haripriya wsa there in Mayapur, and she chanted in the community hall there.  I think everybody’s heart just split just hearing Haripriya sing, and she brought Yamuna right into the room.

It is the same when Jahnavi was speaking about Yamuna yesterday, I felt her just come into the room. And when we were at Dinatarine’s apartment the other night, Yamuna was in the room.  It was Yamuna and everything she embodied and everything she wanted to leave behind, and everything she wanted to give, all of it was in the room. Just like Jahnavi said yesterday, living and loving bhakti that was Yamuna. And I just pray that in the association of everybody I ever come into contact with, that there is always a little bit of that beauty of Yamuna’s living, loving bhakti somewhere in my dealings with them.  Or theirs with me.

Thank you so much.  Yamuna devi ki jai!



Bala Gopala devi dasi and Dhananjaya das

I didn’t meet Yamuna in person in the beginning. My first experience when I felt as if I was meeting her was through Janaki. I came to London from Hawaii shortly after they had left for India. Mukunda and Janaki took me under their wing and would tell me amazing stories of Prabhupada from New York for three or four hours every night – I was sold out after that. Janaki was going through a difficult time in life – her sister had left and the attachment and love she felt for Yamuna was absolutely amazing and so she tried to recreate their life a little bit. She took me on as this young sister, we would study Bhagavad Gita every day for an hour because that’s what she would do with Yamuna, and we’d go out and we’d buy the burfi and we would go to different places. We would go out to different places and she was really trying to keep herself together, because she was on the verge of actually leaving – she didn’t want to but she was on the verge of just going. She gave Yamuna’s famous cloak to me as a gift from Yamuna – later someone stole it.

I saw the influence Yamuna had left on all those devotees. Even for that time, it was an extremely organised temple. She was an amazing organiser and manager and they really tried to implement all of the things that she had taught, so it was a very loving temple. We’d have mangal arati then we’d have the isopanisad class, then chant rounds, then harinam – there was never a time to space out, and that was all Yamuna. She had managed all of that. Even I remember her telling me the story of when the temple had just opened in 1974 and none of the men had told Prabhupada that it was not ready to be opened and they were all giving him excuses. After they all walked out he asked Yamuna – ‘So you tell me the real reason why the temple hasn’t opened.’ He always had that immense faith in her and her abilities. As I got to know her more and more, I felt a very close connection with her – of course probably everyone bandies that around, but it really felt that way, especially over cooking. She was just really someone you could look up to and so meticulous, so loving and expert in engaging you and training you to do your best and make the best of every situation. So I got to engage with her in doing things like that.

Over the years one of the things I appreciated most about her was that so many people go through so much, and she definitely suffered so much – it can be such a male orientated society. Someone of her intelligence and ability can become very frustrated and at times it was very frustrating for her, yet she always dug inside and found that inner strength – how to go deeper into her chanting. She got into chanting and kirtan – I would say 10 years before people grabbed the concept of our society and how we move and on – she was starting that way back when we went to visit her in Saranagati. Back in 2002 she was well into kirtans and they had this amazing schedule, waking up at 2 so they could really meditate on chanting their rounds. It was quite revolutionary.

I always remember the impact she could have on people. One of the first times she came to Vrindavan when we were living at the MVT, we had this idea that it would be great to have her do the Govindam prayers in person at the 7am arati- what an impact she could have on the lives of these devotees, to actually hear her sing this prayer in person. At that time, women didn’t sing in the temple room at all. The temple president, even though he’s a nice devotee, thought it would be too controversial and so we left it and never told her because we felt it was kind of insulting. One day someone had asked her to give a talk on Prabhupada in the kitchen. Even then she’d be so prepared with all her notes, and different inspiring quotes, she never did anything frivolously or whimsically. She would always be meditating on how best to do each thing. One devotee, Atmarama, knew nothing about the Govindam situation, but asked her ‘Please will you sing the Govindam prayers?’ Now there were about 150 devotees there – a lot of brahmacharis because she was speaking about Srila prabhupada. I was sitting next to her because she was very uncomfortable speaking in public. She was saying, ‘No, no, no, no, I don’t do that anymore.’ He was quite pushy and he asked again and she refused. At that moment, there was one devotee who stayed in that building and he had little Jagannath deities in the corner, and it was 6 o’ clock so he was doing an arati. As she was refusing, he started blowing a conch shell. She took it to be that this is already a done deal, I can’t get out of this, and I have to sing. The devotee blowing the conch was just doing what he always did, he didn’t understand at all what was going on. So she said ‘Oh, ok, if we all sing it together.’ I remember standing next to her and she just gets up and in perfect pitch, starts the Govindam prayers. It was so moving, not just to people that knew her, but there were brahmacharis in tears – it was that moving. I just thought, yeah well, in the end, Krishna and Balarama got what they wanted. She affected people that she didn’t know at all through her love and humility -that makes a person and gives that ability to affect people on such a deep level.

The most inspiring things about her were her relentless quest to always perfect her life, to always remember Krishna and never forget him and her immense love for Srila Prabhupada.

Dhananjaya: She always maintained simplicity – never went too elaborate.

Bala Gopal: Krishna would always knock her down  in some ways but she never saw that as a negative, she always saw the positive in that. For someone who suffered a lot materially in life, it is a great inspiration to devotees to understand that you never give up your quest for perfection or to practising Krsna consciousness.

I helped her make some outfits for her deities and the detail and love was just amazing. We did a harinam one and she would draw out every detail and it was such a pleasure to absorb yourself in the outfit 24/7. One year I suggested a painted outfit and she said ‘Oh, no, no, no, no.’ But I kept pushing it a little bit and said I thought it would be gorgeous. So she relented and we had these amazingly talented Russian girls came and we would probably sit for an hour and a half every morning and discuss all the details. She was in love with the whole thing and would come up with these amazing ideas.

The other thing she did was to really focus on the youth. Prabhupada always told her they are our future, but I don’t think anyone really took that to heart as much as she did. What she did in Saranagati and everywhere she went in the world she would be encouraging them, training them and giving them Srila Prabhupada in her own very gentle way.

We were always fortunate to be involved in her kirtan gatherings in Vrindavan and it was just so inspiring. I feel that she was one of the pioneers in developing this kirtan consciousness and culture that we regard now as a new wave. She did it for her own humility – as a lesson for people that we are always in a shaky position and we always need to meditate on that need for greater humility. She was a pioneer in so much. Her love of life was to sit down and do kirtan and bhajan, way back in the very beginning. It wasn’t an easy road and most people take that and fall aside or say this is too difficult, but she never gave up. It’s not an easy thing – the society changed – completely different from what it was when she joined. She recognised that things had to evolve and would always embrace it and understand it as a new challenge – almost immediately.

It was one of the biggest losses that no one sat down with her and recorded everything she had learnt from Prabhupada.

She lived a very honest, Krsna centred life, based around Radha Banabihari, and not for a moment did she forget Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. What she did for all these young people will last for their whole lifetimes.

Bhava-bhakti devi dasi - England

When Yamuna devi passed though England on her way back to the USA (after having stayed in Bhaktivedanta Hospital) she was hosted at Anil Agarwarl’s house in Central London. Late in the evening a group of devotees from ISKCON-London – home of Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara – went to see her. My husband, Jai Nitai dasa, was standing on the pavement speaking to Yamuna devi while she sat in the back seat of the car which had picked her up from the airport. Yamuna devi wanted to meet me and when I came over shyly to the car she yanked me (yes really !) through the open car window and held my head close to her mouth and proceeded to chant the Maha Mantra in my right year before releasing me. A far out first meeting for sure !

Jahnavi devi dasi - England

I don’t know when my relationship with Yamuna devi began. I know that since I was a baby I have been hearing that beautiful voice singing as the altar curtains open in the morning. I also grew up seeing her two books – great tomes of culinary knowledge on our bookshelves. I used to get them down and read through the anecdotes that prefaced every recipe – exciting adventures and stories about people, places and flavours I had no idea of yet. As a young student at Bhaktivedanta Manor gurukula, I had only a hint of the important part she had already played indirectly in my spiritual life – as one of the first pioneers of Krishna consciousness in England; or of the more direct and influential role she would come to play later on.

My childhood holds a few fleeting memories of her – briefest meetings in Vrindavan and London, once sitting in the car with my mum as we passed her coming in the other direction up a country lane. When she saw that it was us in the car she rolled down the window and yelled for us to stop. Breathlessly she got out, exclaiming that she was leaving the country that day but was on her way to bring my mum a present. She handed it over, a mason jar of homemade cumin infused ghee. The label was handwritten in her distinctive neat calligraphy – we treasured it for years.

2005 – First Meetings

It wasn’t til I was eighteen that we finally met again. A chance opportunity arose when we were staying in Vancouver with family. My mum heard that Dina needed to get from Vancouver to Saranagati and offered to drive her. We could only escape from our family for 24 hours, but my mum assured me the long drive would be well worth it, and we rented a car for the occasion.

The road up to Saranagati passes first through areas of fertile farmland – acres of blueberries and sweetcorn, travelling alongside the rushing Thompson river. Eventually the greenery gives way to hard rock and pines and the moist air becomes dry and crisp. We arrived after four hours and drove to Bhakti Kutir, the home of Sri Sri Radha Banebihari and the place where Yamuna and Dina had lived for almost a decade. I had butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect or what to do. My understanding of etiquette told me that a devotee of such a calibre should be respected very highly, but I didn’t know how this should translate practically. I didn’t know that this was a totally unique situation.

The first thing I saw after entering the front yard was a small arrangement of stones. There were about thirty – some light, some streaked and some black – all smooth and oval shaped. A large one in the centre was hand painted ‘Lake of Vaisnava Jewels’, and each stone was painted with a different Vaisnava quality. I was charmed instantly by the rare combination of artistry and humble devotion in this small creation.

We crossed the front porch of the single floor adobe structure and knocked on the door. It was decorated with stained glass paintings of tilak and hands holding bunches of flowers. An excited voice called out ‘Hariiiiiibol’, from inside and in quick succession the door was flung open, there was a flurry of rose petals and we were enveloped in the most soft, loving embrace I think I have ever experienced. Yamuna was not so tall – much shorter than me, but she exuded the most powerful presence – simultaneously strong, yet extremely feminine. She looked at us both and exclaimed, in so much happiness to see my mum after decades. Then she gravely took our hands and pulled us in front of Sri Sri Radha Banebihari. A sweet coolness radiated from their altar. Everything was gleaming and suffused with bhakti. I was already overwhelmed after just twenty minutes.

Prasadam followed immediately – a meal so nourishing and tasty, my worries melted away. The power of the love and devotion in everything was effortlessly palpable.

Later that evening some devotees came over for their regular weekly reading of Caitanya Caritamrta. I was struck by how deeply absorbed Yamuna was. She had her eyes closed and as she listened, the occasional tear would roll down her cheek. I was raised to be wary of expressions of deep emotion in a devotional context, but looking at her I felt complete conviction in my heart that her feeling was pure, spontaneous and genuine. She hardly seemed to notice what was going on, totally fixated on the pastime of Lord Caitanya and his associates. Later that night as she put us to bed, she pulled out a wooden box and announced that she was giving us a special good night surprise. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘You’ll see,’ she said mysteriously. In the small ‘Blue Lotus’ cabin that stood close by to the ashram, she shook the box and set it down. Soft, deep bell tones began to emerge from within, playing as she checked that we had everything and then left, wishing us ‘sweet Krishna dreams.’

The next morning we attended the sublime morning program and feasted on a breakfast of cinnamon French toast with fresh peaches, all served with incredible love and care. As we spoke for the last time over breakfast, both Yamuna and Dina asked me questions about myself, and I was taken aback by their attention and appreciation of everything I said. I wasn’t trying to impress them, but they kept exclaiming at my maturity and depth and I realised that they were expert at seeing potential and encouraging it to no end. I felt honoured, blessed, purified and humbled. As we drove away I said to my mum ‘I feel like we’ve just been in the spiritual world.’

In those first 24 hours, I was able to observe the nature and activities of an advanced devotee of Krishna. I count these as some of the most profoundly illuminating moments of my life. Though her way of living was deceptively simple, the attention to detail in every sense revealed the depth of her love and focus. In the Bhagavatam it is stated the a devotee is a holy place of pilgrimage – though their own purity, they uplift everyone around them and can even invest inanimate objects with a sense of deep devotional feeling.

In the ashram of Yamuna and Dina Tarine prabhus, I never felt overly formal or awkward – their presence and the charged atmosphere of service to Sri Sri Radha Banebihari was a powerfully uplifting force. Guests would come like tired birds, amazed to find our consciousness soaring upwards on the thermal of their bhakti. It came easily, naturally.

Over the subsequent years, I would travel long distances by plane and bus to that remote oasis, always feeling a combination of giddy excitement and deep gratitude upon my arrival. One day in that space made time stand still. The earthen floor, polished smooth and painted a deep red; the benches that regularly accommodated scores of guests, hand covered by Yamuna in vibrant blue, yellow and green cotton. Wherever you looked there was something to remind you of Krishna – handpainted renditions of favourite verses on glass; calligraphed records of honoured guests; a brass steamer used to cook for Srila Prabhupada, now standing by the altar garlanded by a silk kavaca. The altar was immaculate – Sri Sri Radha Banebihari glowed. I remember the first time Yamuna and Dina showed me their outfits, explaining that they had four versions of each one made – one for each season. Yamuna had extensively studied the art of deity worship in Vrindavan and this was manifest in the details – tiny silver instruments and toys for the divine couple, delicate ornaments and even finer bhoga offerings. Once I visited during the Indian monsoon period and though we were in the far West of Canada, the deities wore their monsoon attire – shot through with silver threads to represent the heavy rainfall.

2007 – Revisiting Saranagati

As with all things–whatever will be by Krsna, will be.

Todays thought: The Holy Name alone is everything.

Praying to share that with you this summer, somehow or other.

Much love from your Saranagati aunties,

Dina and Yamuna

Notes from Japa Retreat 2008 – Yamuna’s talk

Chanting is a lifeline to krsna. Hearing is most important. This is a process of self realisation – you can’t live as a vaisnava through someone else.

  • Just keep chanting and everything will come.
  • Let Krsna as the form of time reveal himself in your heart.
  • If you are attentive, taste is sure to come,
  • Chanting in KC is a centering process – to find a form of balance.
  • Prabhupada said ‘be sincere’ – he didn’t make it complicated – we make it complicated.
  • How do you feel in kirtan? Are you feeling it or detached? Japa is the opposite side of the same coin as kirtan. Like eating and sleeping we need equal amounts of both.

11/07/2009 –

Hoping we have a chance to connect many times again in this lifetime. Everywhere where the Lord is worshipped, where Srimad Bhagavatam is relished and Srimad Bhagavad Gita is chanted, and where the Holy Name is center–that place is Dham. May we aspire to live every second of our breathing life in such a place.

31/07/2009 – Your life’s mission is to utilize and constantly redefine how to utilize your time and talents for Krsna. The more you become attached to morning and evening sadana, the easier the rest of the day. Mercy Mercy Mercy be.

 2009 – Stop through London for 40th anniversary


  • Govindam prayers with AKS
  • staying humbly with a devotee whilst others were at Anil Agarwal’s
  • spilling something on her sari, so wearing an old outfit


14/01/2010 – FROM YAMUNA

okay, to the serious, to some things you are likely to wrangle with for your whole life.


how much do i really want out of this material world?

why does it take so much effort to do so?

what am i willing to do in pursuance of that?

what is the urgency, or the validity of urgency in this regard?


i can say that in youth, one feels there is much time to do the needful.

the more you understand krsna as time the better your internal dialogue will be.

J: Sometimes I feel very afraid that I will get married, and become further and further entangled in the material world, acquiring things and wanting more and more.


thank you for such concerns–you are hearing bhaktivinoda’s prayers.

on the one hand, marriage and its potential entanglement is a glorious vehicle for for understanding our philosophy.

it can also be a place where complacency and religious activity rather than life giving sadhana takes over, and we waste time there.


the good news is that you get to choose, with your free will, what to do.

krsna is so kind to give us the choice,

love of god means the cessation of all material taint, and must be voluntary.

how and when we conditioned souls return to our original home is up to us.

Summer 2010 –

Some of my most treasured times with Yamuna were when we honoured prasad together. Eating with her was a spiritual and sensory experience from another realm. She would simultaneously make everyone feel completely welcome and comfortable, whilst effortlessly entraining each person to her level of focus on the act of receiving Krishna’s grace through prasad. In gurukula, I grew up singing the ‘prasad prayers’ before every meal. We were children, and didn’t understand the sing-song Bengali poetry that we galloped through twice a day. Eventually as an adult, I fell out of the habit of the prayer, resorting to a quick mental thanksgiving.

From the very first time I ate with Yamuna, my perspective on the act of eating changed totally. There was no pinpointing where her meditation began – no dividing line between daily activities and ‘meditation’. It flowed on, from long before her morning sadhana, to prayerful cooking in the kitchen, to sitting at the table for lunch – a continuous state of gratitude and devotion. Sometimes she would begin by grasping for the hands of other guests, or fold hers and place her elbows on the table. She would close her eyes and begin to softly sing the prayer with her resonant voice, sometimes low and rich, and sometimes rising with deep feeling. I don’t think I ever heard her sing it the same way. There was no rote, no rushing. It was truly a song of love. Beyond knowing it intellectually, I began to understand from my heart, what ‘honouring prasad’ meant.

She would eat slowly, sometimes commenting on different aspects of the dishes. Often, she would question her fellow diners – asking pointed questions about spicing, textures and quality. ‘What do you taste?’, she would ask, smiling enigmatically as I tried to guess the ingredients. Sometimes she would ask my opinion on what I thought could improve, and I would try to honestly answer, though I felt like a fool to report my unrefined perceptions. After some time I began to appreciate how she was training us with this questioning. I could see how to perceive and discern between different qualities in prasad was not so different between noticing and discerning between similar variables in hearing sastra, kirtan, or anything perceived by the spiritual senses. She would prove this point by visibly relishing Srimad Bhagavatam or kirtan as if she was tasting a delicious dessert. Eyes closed, she would turn her face very slowly left and right, and either fall silent or exclaim with gusto – ‘Nectar!’ or ‘Krsna!’ Though I didn’t relish in the same way, I knew that as an exceptional cook, she had extremely refined taste. Seeing that this level of taste existed, helped me to understand that through the process of bhakti yoga, I too could refine my senses and appreciate ‘all things Krsna’ in a similar way.

In my favourite mealtime moments, she would verbalise this point, often telling a beautifully detailed story about Srila Prabhupada and his level of sensory refinement. The last time I saw her she told of how in her early period in Vrindavan, she had sourced some extremely high quality wheat from one of the main temple kitchens, ground the grains herself and made chapatis on a cow dung fire. When she served the breads to Srila Prabhupada, she described how he elegantly tore off a small piece and popped in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. Within moments he had identified the type of grain and cooking fuel, and commented, ‘Very good, but they could be even better if you left them on the tawa for just two seconds longer.’ She was amazed at his level of perception, and brought us all into that timeless moment – holding up her fingers ‘two seconds’ as Srila Prabhupada had all those years ago.

Though the quality and presentation of the meal were usually enough to make me fall into an awed silence, we had the most enlivening and deep conversations in those moments. I would curse my poor memory as I sat with sticky hands, unable to write anything down as she recalled countless instructions and amazing stories from her life. After prasad she would often talk on, slowly picking every last crumb from her plate as she spoke. Often, when she spoke of Srila Prabhupada, tears would glide down her cheeks, but she rarely seemed to notice. She was not self conscious – in that moment she was deeply connecting with her guru through memory. Sometimes she would share historic information that surprised and even shocked me. With frankness, humour and honesty she recounted the obstacles and extreme trials that faced the early women in ISKCON. One afternoon she shared a great deal of her earliest times in Vrindavan as the first Western woman to live there. As a nineteen year old I was riveted at her descriptions of how she used to bathe in the freezing Yamuna in the pitch black of morning, or sometimes have to use the pit that was meant for mixing concrete for the Krishna Balarama temple’s construction. With her gestures, gaze and voice, she would paint the scene so vividly that I almost felt the memory was my own.

No matter what the difficulty she described, it was never with bitterness or contempt. Though she had a mercurial wit and a wry sense of humour, she always spoke in terms of what she had learned, and tried to unpack that realisation for me to absorb also. Even people who had undermined or hurt her greatly were spoken of with careful kindness and reserve.

Mealtimes would usually end with her laughing protestations as Dina tried to make her go and rest. She always wanted to stay and discuss more, or use the time to question and hear from me about my life since we’d last met. There was no time inappropriate for careful listening or deep reflection.

Movie Night

Sometimes when I stayed at Radha Banebihari’s ashram, I felt a little burdensome. Yamuna and Dina prabhus were always engaged in service, and though they lived in a remote location, somehow they still had a busy schedule every day. Their daily activities were quite regulated, leaving enough time for focused prayer and reading also. I am about forty years their junior, and I sometimes felt like they were a little anxious that I not get too bored with their peaceful routine. One night Yamuna proposed that we have a ‘movie night’. She seemed quite excited and I was very curious as to what we would be watching. Up in the mountains, I had not been around a TV for weeks.

After dinner, Dina brought out a small video player and they pulled out the selection – ‘Mother Ganga’, or dramas from Chowpatty temple. We chose Chowpatty, and put on the first play – a drama on the life of Haridas Thakur. The first few minutes went by and we watched in silence. Suddenly the episode where Haridas Thakur preaches to the prostitute came on. All the actors were male, mostly monks from the ashram, and the particular one playing the prostitute was really getting into his role. He moved his hips from side to side and was more than a little camp in delivering his lines. I tried to suppress my laughter, but then Yamuna started to snigger, and we were both crying tears in no time. ‘Oh! This is too much! This is really too much!’ she chuckled. I thought we would keep watching it but as she composed herself she said, ‘Dina, let’s switch this one off, this isn’t good – I want to see the story but I’m going to make too many offenses – let’s watch Mother Ganga instead.’

I was taken aback by how even in a humorous moment that most of us would consider harmless, she was alert to Vaisnava aparadha – an expression of her deep respect for every devotee.

The Perfect Host – Henry and other guests

Humble Pie

During a stay in Saranagati in the summer of 2010, I got to join in with one Gitavali chanting session. My time there was a brief pause from travelling around the country, presenting kirtan to a wider community of yoga practitioners and spiritualists. In that context, I was usually on a stage, presenting a ‘performance style’ kirtan – designed to be eye catching and lively for those not so familiar with the practice yet. It had left me feeling a little weary of the constant battle between the ego and the spiritual intelligence when in the public eye, and I was eagerly looking forward to taking part in a more simple, sweet kirtan experience.

            At the insistence of others, I was to play my violin in the kirtan. I usually did, especially because I was regularly in front of large audiences where we used many instruments.  This was something that Yamuna never failed to encourage, though she cautioned me on many occasions about the subtle dangers of being in front of appreciative crowds.

We began this kirtan as they usually did, with a reading from the autobiography of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. This was something that everyone loved, and we laughed and fell silent in turn at the profound and deeply personal revelations that were shared in the Thakur’s own voice. This set the mood perfectly for the kirtan. Yamuna was expert in curating and guiding an event to create just the right tone and atmosphere for personal realisation. We began to chant, responding to Kartamasa’s beautiful and sincere singing, and as I usually did, I would pick up my violin to accompany, playing in and around the melody line. But in the all pervasive atmosphere of humility and devotion, I suddenly felt a creeping discomfort. My violin felt cumbersome and when I sang, I noticed my voice in a different way than before. I realised that the presence of such advanced devotees was forcing me to look my pride right in the face. I realised how attached I was to being recognised as a good singer and musician, and how far I was from true humility. I put my violin down and lowered the volume of my voice, trying to process these feelings and remain focused on chanting.

Yamuna had shared with me many stories of her times leading kirtan with Srila Prabhupada, and I was always struck by her total disinterest in recognition of her talent. Every occasion that she begged or instructed me to sing mangala arati for the deities came flooding to my mind, and I recalled how much I had relished the chance to show that ‘I could do it’. I felt totally crushed in the understanding that her encouragement was not in any way a mundane appreciation of my talent, but was all about nurturing my offering of my abilities in devotional service. Foolishly, I had accepted it otherwise.

In that moment I tried to follow her example and offer my heart to Srila Prabhupada – praying for service and detachment from the desire for honour. Later, she said ‘You didn’t play your fiddle much tonight Janbee, what happened?’ I felt embarrassed to share my realisation with her, afraid of sounding too pompous or like I was fishing for encouragement. ‘I wasn’t feeling so well,’ I said. ‘I have a headache.’ She immediately began offering remedies and urged me to go and rest. In this way, I learned how holy name, combined with the presence and atmosphere surrounding a great devotee can evoke heartfelt realisation, without any further exchange of words.


  • Sharing prasad with others – maha from RBB – always making sure everyone and eaten – tikkis for Rasaraj and Govinda. Note on the door.
  • Honouring guests – flower petals, sweet words, encouragement, gifts, deep spiritual insight, genuine friendship, frank humour and honesty.
  • MORNING PROGRAMS  – describe feeling, atmosphere and lessons learned from the format.
  • Deity seva with the milkmaids – she had carefully fostered such a devotional mood in them all through love and encouragement

Diary Entries

Here at radha Banebihari mandir I find sanctuary – devotion, depth, humour and love.

Yamuna tells me of the time she led a 3 way kirtan with Srila Prabhupada at Conway Hall and the next day he said he had seen Narada Muni there.

We talk about Vaisnava ettiquette and she tells me of the Dalmia family who refused to donate land in vrindavan to SP as he had her, a female disciple, living in Vrindavan.

The killer bull that lived under the tamal tree and how it was eventually defeated by harinam…

She tells how she stood with SP in krishna balaram mandir when it was still a construction site and he expressed a desire for 24 hour kirtan. She prayed intensely that his desire would be fulfilled and a tear slid down her cheeck as she expressed gratitude for Aindra prbahu’s seva.


  • In that trip we discussed how discrimnation is different from having kindness and compassion – liberalism will not always serve you well

Breakfast of sprouted mung beans,cut bananas, salt, pepper, chopped herbs like tarragon and lovage and flavoured or plain yogurt.



  • When my mum and I left Mayapur after the Gitavali retreat we went to say a final goodbye to Yamuna and Dina. It was early in the morning and Yamuna had been bed ridden for days with what seemed like bronchitis as well as a potential kidney infection. She welcomed us eagerly and conversed with love, but was clearly unwell, a little feverish still and coughing. We shared reflections of gratitude for the time spent together in service of the holy name, and then got ready to leave. Before walking out the door, she got up with great difficulty and went to the kitchen. I was stunned when she came out with a stack of foil wrapped dal puris – ‘Srila Prabhupada says good for travelling,’ she announced. She’d obviously been making them since much earlier in the morning. We were bowled over by her love and care, and when we ate them I had a deep experience of how that love was actually invested in the prasadam itself. Unlike any other time I had tasted her cooking, when it was always flawlessly prepared, this time the puris were not fully cooked through. I knew this would’ve usually been unacceptable to her, and I could understand that perhaps her ill health was the reason. But far from making them inedible, the devotion we could taste in every doughy bite carried us on a cloud on our journey home. We relished every morsel and made them last for several meals.

2011 – in the UK

A Birthday to Remember

In March 2011, Yamuna stopped in London on her way back from her extensive stay in Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mumbai. The doctors had told her that she could not fly the long distance back to the US without a break, as she was on a strict treatment regime that was essential for her recovery. Her arrival happened to coincide with my 24th birthday, and though I wished it was for a different reason, I was incredibly excited that she was coming – the best birthday present!

We waited at the arrivals gate for her – myself, my mother and several other devotees who would be helping to care for her. After a long time we spotted her moving slowly down the long hall towards the double doors. She looked frail and was clearly struggling, pushing a wheelchair that held her luggage. Suddenly she stopped and leaned heavily against the wall. I ran forward to help her and she looked into my eyes – totally exhausted. ‘Why didn’t you get someone to help you?’ I asked, feeling terrible that in her condition she had been left to make her own way off the plane. She didn’t say anything but as the others rushed forward,she began to greet them in a soft voice. She got into the wheelchair and let me push her out. She was clearly dazed and desperately needing to rest, but before she was driven away, we garlanded her with a string of fresh blue hyacinths and daffodils. Suddenly she became animated and exclaimed at the beauty of the spring bounty. When someone reminded her that it was my birthday, she slipped the garland around my neck without removing it from hers, and pulled me close. She embraced me for a long time and sang the sweetest birthday song in my ear, very softly. I was overwhelmed by her humility and love. In her weak condition, she had been too humble to ask for help, and now was giving out so much personal care to all who were present. In this moment I learned once again the power of a true vaisnava – to be selfless, compassionate and deeply personal under all circumstances.

In London, Yamuna stayed at the Mayfair home of Anil Agarwal, a friend and benefactor of the devotees of Soho Street. Though she was very weak and having to breathe with the aid of a machine for periods of the day and at night, she was still eager to meet up with her godsisters. A small group came over for a lunch and afternoon of sanga. I was the only person there under 50-something, and I felt like the most fortunate fly on the wall. We were supposed to spend only two hours at most there, but as the gathering continued through lunchtime and many hours after, Yamuna showed no sign of tiring out. She was animated, full of wit and recounting intimate and heartfelt stories of times past that had everyone’s attention and sometimes hooting with laughter. Threaded through every anecdote was a deep love for Krishna and Srila Prabhupada, and I could see how her godsisters relished this, drinking it in with their ears and hearts, eyes glistening. Her sanga was like the most refreshing drink and no one could bring themselves to leave.

Outsie, the sun had lowered, but inside it felt like no time had passed at all – it was a moment from the spiritual world, a gathering of gopis who only wanted to discuss Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. We had a short kirtan, going ‘round robin’ style as Yamuna loved to do. Each voice sang so movingly, and the shared knowledge of the many trials and life challenges each had faced on their journey made it all the more poignant. At one point I went to the kitchen to help wash the dishes and Yamuna walked in and exclaimed, ‘Isn’t Krishna consciousness wonderful? Jahnavi and I play out the rasa of being auntie and so on, but really we’re friends. What an amazing thing to have a friendship between a 70 year old and a 24 year old.’ Later, when everyone was in another room, I said goodbye to her, not knowing if this may be the last time, as her health was so bad, and I was not due to come to North America for a good few months.

She barely said anything, just looked deeply into my eyes for a long time. I experienced what people used to describe with Srila Prabhupada, that he would look at you, and almost see into your soul. I felt that I didn’t need to say anything, she could perceive it on the gross and subtle level. I was wearing my pendant of Krishna’s lotus feet as usual, and she touched it with her finger, then gestured to her heart, then back to mine, and back to hers, going back and forth several times. I understood that she was saying that our connection was eternal, through service to Krishna’s lotus feet. There was no need for goodbye.


Yamuna’s kavacas – her aura of protection

Yamuna’s kavaca earrings, how her dress was sari for morning ‘because Krsna likes it’

The way she kept in touch with so many people via email, because she knew that we would be able to re-read another time

Her singing to herself throughout the day

Her unique way of hosting guests

Her way of treating young boys and girls

Her manerrisms and qulaities reflected those of Srila Prabhupada.

21st December 2011 Freewrite in Hudson, just after Yamuna devi’s passing.

Making bunchi kitchri for 6 hungry boys, you laugh and chat away, the grand queen of the long table as you personally serve each person and tell us how Srila Prabhupada used to do the same. I sit with you after prasad as we wipe the last licks from our plates and we talk and talk and talk – about Srila Prabhupada, the future, gurus, Bhaktivinode Thakur – you tell me such wonderful things that go so deep but I can’t even catch it all as it falls – it is a rainshower. Two fat tears roll down your cheeks as you implore me to reach my potential.

You have the eye for detail, such refinement – coriander ‘no stems, leaves only’, chopping vegetables ‘the first thing Srila prabhupada taught us’, spicing -noticing every nuance in flavour and texture, nuance in kirtan instrumentation, in dressing Krsna according to season and mood. Your detail in serving others – night chimes, slippers, a little piece of cheese inside the tikkis. Your personal love and care for each person who comes through your door, with a sober face, grabbing them by the hand and bringing them before Radha Banebihari. You have a nickname for everyone – JJ, Janbee, Jewel Jahnavi. You love everyone so sincerely and we all love you back. You so carefully try to instruct in the mood of whatever Srila Prabhupada taught you, without any pride or agenda. You freely share the wisdom gathered through a life of difficulty – with such honesty – stories about how you were treated by the early men of ISKCON.

Head turned, face to the sun – you are in a secret place. Japa is a secret garden, the names stretched out, long, soft, melodious. Caranamrta with lime. Rose/kaju sweets. Calligraphy with such finesse. You told me about the man in Miami who touched you under the table at the cookery awards gala – the was the end of the cookery world for you. Hot water in your flask.

Singing to yourself on the way to bed and during cooking. Such soft, sweet, love for Krsna. The goswamis of Vrindavan are absolutely real to you. Krsna is absolutely real. The Bhagavatam a revelation at every moment. Krsna consciousness is alive, nuanced, fascinating.

You take no short cuts for things that matter – artistry matters, devotion matters, relationships matter. Tears rolling down your cheeks as you sit on your ball, hearing how Lord Caitanya’s associates acted like monkey warriors.

You appreciate the jewel in everyone, you welcome and engage. Your lake of vaisnava jewels speaks of your qualities. You are mischievous, so full of verve and humour, but also with the capacity to be so grave. Like Srila Prabhupada – one moment charming and the life of the party, but alone in private, no veil separates you and Krsna – you are right there!

Dear Pisima I miss you more than I can say. I wanted to hug you. I wanted to serve you and massage your feet. I would have come to stay with you just to hear about Srila Prabhupada, just to sit with you all day. I wish I would’ve asked you more pointedly about my life, but you told me everything I need to know. Just love and serve with deep humuility. Do everything with real care and attention because your heart is full of love. Be soft, subtle or silent. Chant Gaura! Honour the vaisnavas with your life and soul. Do all that you can with no attachment to praise or glory. Be totally yourself, totally authentic as a devotee, without being attached to the identity of your body or present persona. Get ‘torqued’ on kirtan – get excited. Search for the truth and don’t be afraid to say if you’re not feeling it. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or heart and tell Krsna everything. He is your best friend. Believe in the power and presence of Srila Prabhupada. Trust that if you sincerely pray to him, all empowerment will flow.


Called to Dance

In your face I see a precious weight of memory

You live a life on uneven ground,

one foot planted on the earth – the other rises, called to dance

at a distant drumbeat’s sound.

Where do you go when your eyes close?

I wish I could follow you but now

you fade away so slowly,

one limb at a time.

Fingers numb – misbehaving.

This passage of time

the body’s decline

captivates you,

wonderful and terrible,

you see how as sure as winter’s end,

time brings wisdom and reunion.

Now a tear falls

at the turn of a phrase

while beautiful worlds

meet the edges of your gaze.

In the afternoon

Face upturned to the sun,

alone on the balcony.

You look down on the ocean,

that vast, shifting blue that sends up a fine spray.

I don’t want to disturb you,

deep in this moment,

diving into those secret waters

that have no beginning, and no end.

Eyes closed, you taste the colour,

the beauty,

the changing light.

You drink it all in with ears and eyes tuned to the divine,

to the details that escape most of us.

Such refinement in your every action,

every word drawn from that sacred depth.

I try to catch it all, with my pens and paper,

my gadgets

but I am overwhelmed, by the volume of wisdom and love,

like cupping my hands in a rain shower,

the rest falls to the thirsty ground.

Rose petals and cashews,

arcing letters on a page, pure grace,

a little piece of cheese inside the tikkis,

subtle surprises,

nuances in flavour and texture and feel.

Krsna is so real to you, so present,

the Goswamis are your dearest gurus,

all is dynamic, fascinating, thrilling –

only the thinnest of veils separates you.

With you we experience truth.

Even your wit, sometimes mercury quick,

has the snap of profound reality

You love, you love, you love,

anyone is eligible.

If there is a jewel to be found,

you find it

and polish it,

hold it to the light,

and proclaim its worth and beauty,

til we believe you

and forget that we are only reflecting your light.


On Your Side

There is a thin veil,

I stand on one side, and you on the other,

and everything looks the same.

The same lampposts,

same bricks,

gutters and pavements,

fields of dry grass,

and skies, scudded with clouds.

On my side, I am what I am – unfulfilled,

scrabbling for promises piled up at the doorstep of each new year.

But on your side,

each gutter and dry field, a particle of divinity.

On your side, at the heart of everything, two lords,

two radiant brothers,

two luminaries in the dark night sky.

On your side there is music, seeping upward from the pavement cracks,

and things align,

with mystic grace, sliding together like constellations.

Though I am all fingers and fumbling thumbs,

my life as a game of Tetris,

I can see a little –

I can fix my gaze on you,

in wonder at the radiance of two divine brothers.


No Stems

I chopped coriander on the table

and you glanced over,

– ‘no stems’, you said, so seriously.

I wondered if you meant it.

You did.

‘No stems’, you repeated.

So I dutifully picked every fragrant leaf off the bunch.

Today, and ever since, I do the same,

and with the familiar scent,

your face and voice appear.

I pick in the hope of one day living in your world.

No stems. Only the finest for your dearmost.

To some it is pedantic.


‘Just chop ‘em up and throw’em in,’ cries the world.

But I cry for this –

for no stems, for hours spent in selfless service,

for showers in ice water on winter mornings,

for ridicule endured, for perfectly drawn lines,

for soft, subtle, sweet, silent love,

No stems for your beloved, as cried the gopis,

‘The stones of Vraja will bruise his lotus feet,’

You pick leaf after leaf,

a subtle alchemy,


at the greatest depth.

” ‘My dear Vaiṣṇava, seeing a person like you is the perfection of one’s eyesight, touching your lotus feet is the perfection of the sense of touch, and glorifying your good qualities is the tongue’s real activity, for in the material world it is very difficult to find a pure devotee of the Lord.’”

(Lord Caitanya to Sanatan Goswami)

Yamuna’s kavacas – her aura of protection

Yamuna’s kavaca earrings, how her dress was sari for morning ‘because Krsna likes it’

The way she kept in touch with so many people via email, because she knew that we would be able to re-read another time

Her singing to herself throughout the day

Her unique way of hosting guests

Her way of treating young boys and girls

Her manerrisms and qulaities reflected those of Srila Prabhupada.

To my dear Pisima Yamuna,

Obeisances to you and all glories to your eternal service. I can hardly believe it has been one year since I received the news that you had left this world. Writing these words is just as surreal as that day that I got a phone call to say that you were gone. Stunned, I had sat down where I was and looked out at the bleak winter landscape of Hudson, New York. Birds flew back and forth between the barren fruit trees and the morning sun was pale.

Away from the association of devotees, I found it difficult to digest the reality of your departure and got stuck in with the job I was to do over the next days – to paint a large mural in a yoga studio that mimicked the wall paintings found in Vrindavan. After one day I had painted only a large circle. My heart and mind were elsewhere. As I tried to paint, I listened to bhajans from our times together at full blast, diving into the shelter of that potent sacred sound, as you had shown us how to do. For three days I was in isolation, painting and listening to the kirtan 8 hours a day. The mural took shape, climbing vines and bright green parrots that darted along the wall and rested atop door frames. I thought of how you always trained me to offer every activity to Krishna, and dedicated that painting in your service. I tried to make it something that you would be pleased with, an external manifestation of an internal meditation.

You used to tell us how Srila Prabhupada taught you not to talk in the kitchen, just chant Hare Krishna. So I tried to do this, and still try to remember this principle every day.

In the past year I have had ample opportunity to reflect upon the immeasurable gifts that you have given to myself and so many others. I was fortunate to be given a small service to interview devotees for the book project and as I did, I could even more appreciate the many facets of your jewel-like presence. Person after person spoke of your otherworldly  qualities with deepest love and consistent detail.

I have written a great deal about you in the six years that we were more closely in communication. Journals are filled with records of some of the most spiritually potent moments of my life, or scribbled recipes from exquisite meals, and poor attempts to capture the weight of instruction and guidance that you gave me whenever there was a chance. I don’t feel I could ever reach an end in writing about you, so here is my humble glorification for this one day.

The first time I visited your ashram in Saranagati I saw the Lake of Vaisnava Jewels a small arrangement of about thirty stones – some light, some streaked and some black – all smooth and oval shaped each neatly painted with a different Vaisnava quality.  In the time that I knew you, you always helped me to see and feel how Srila Prabhupada embodied each one to the fullest degree. Allowing me to get to know him through you was perhaps the most precious gift you gave, and in doing so, I was always struck by how many qualities you shared with him. In the most natural and unassuming way, through gesture and expression, depth and practise, you imbibed and demonstrated the very qualities that you praised in your beloved master. So please accept my humble attempt to sing your own glories in this way, as an offering to you, and to Srila Prabhupada under whose transcendental guidance you were burnished to bright, pure gold.

A vaisnava is very kind to everyone. Your kindness was Krishna deep, whether spending hours and hours of quality, solitary time with a person who just needed to speak and be heard, or in dovetailing your life, materially and spiritually to share the magic of Krishna’s world with everyone you came into contact with.

That vaisnava is truthful and does not make anyone his enemy. Your popularity and fame was not the product of duplicity or diplomacy. People were drawn to your easy, welcoming presence, and further captivated by your ability to speak straight and strong without offending. To be someone that actively tries to maintain a standard of spiritual purity and guide others without criticism is a feat that many attempt and fail to carry out. The truth you shared was always spoken eloquently, according to the listener, the time, place and circumstance.

A vaisnava is equal to everyone. In my immature desire to be special, I often placed myself mentally in your inner circle, congratulating myself that I was allowed to spend some intimate time with you and receive such special attention and guidance. Though it’s true that I have been incredibly fortunate, I was always humbled when I witnessed that I was not special at all. Rather your sensitivity, kindness and nurturing care were ever ready for anyone who came before you. Just as has been said of Srila Prabhupada, each person felt uniquely recognised and special. Your care was discerning and specific, whilst rooted in the universal truth of bhakti.

No one can find fault in a pure Vaisnava and those who do so make a grave mistake. When studying your life, it is possible to understand how deep your commitment was to Srila Prabhupada, and how that deep commitment was made up of thousands and thousands of choices and sacrifices – always taking the path of surrender as opposed to that of least resistance.

We often hear about the quality of magnanimity -the quality of being generous or forgiving. I was always in awe of how sincerely you forgave those who made your life very difficult in the early days of your Krishna conscious journey. Few know the criticism and sabotage you endured as one of the few women that was part of the movement from the start. But you forgave everything, and always gave devotees the benefit of the doubt. Your desire was to nurture their good qualities and never to be vengeful or hold deep grudges.

A Vaisnava is mild and gentle. Sometimes I felt that you were from another age – perhaps a Victorian lady, or more specifically, someone from Krishna’s world. Your ettiquette and manner sometimes felt formal to those living in a world where such things are less and less valued, but they decorated you like beautiful ornaments, and made being with you an experience of the spiritual world.

A Vaisnava is clean. You were clean to a fault. Sarvamangala devi remembers you cleaning the skirting boards of your ashram in England with a Q-tip! I remember your kitchen gleaming, before, during and after you cooked. Your altar was always shining, each ornament and utensil polished to perfection. You learned about internal and external cleanliness from Srila Prabhupada and perfected the pursuit without being fanatical or obsessive.

A Vaisnava is without possessions and has no material desires. When you would tell me about how many times you had settled and been uprooted in your life, I couldn’t believe how well you had travelled. The only possesions you were really attached to were those that connected you to Srila Prabhupada – his gleaming brass steamer, his shoes, their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Banebihari that you worshipped under his blessing, even your rosewood initiation beads that you eventually gave to a young friend, just to encourage them in chanting.

(11) He is very peaceful.

(12) He is always surrendered to Krsna.

(13) He has no material desires.

(14) He is very meek.

(15) He is steady.

(16) He controls his senses.

(17) He does not eat more than required.

(18) He is not influenced by the Lord’s illusory energy.

(19) He offers respect to everyone.

(20) He does not desire any respect for himself.

(21) He is very grave.

(22) He is merciful.

(23) He is friendly.

(24) He is poetic.

(25) He is expert.

(26) He is silent.”

At November 2013 Vrindavan Memorial

JAHNAVI PRABHU:           Hare Krsna everybody.  Thank you so much for coming.  We are really overwhelmed by how many people are arriving.  When we started to conceive of having this program within the month of Kartikka, when there will be so many devotees here, we were thinking that maybe about ten, twenty devotees who were fortunate to have some personal association with Yamuna Devi would come.  And just have some kirtan here to remember her.  And then we thought, “Well maybe it is a nice opportunity while there are so many devotees to actually invite a bit more broadly, so that those who didn’t know her so well, or didn’t know her at all, would have a chance to learn something or become inspired.  So we are quite overwhelmed, and we are expecting some more special guest today as well.

So, for the next two hours we will hear some glorifications of Her Grace Yamuna Devi, and also do what probably was her favorite thing to do – was to do kirtan with all the devotees. And we can chant some bhajans of the Vaisnava Acaryas.

So we will be hearing from many devotees today, and we want to start by inviting Visakha Devi to give us a little bit of context to the life of Yamuna Devi for those who may not have known her or known so much about her life.

This Samadhi was installed  on January 17th of this year.  Many of us met her to honor that ceremony, but for many of you this may be the first time you are seeing it.

Thank you very much.

JAHNAVI PRABHU:  So we are very grateful for everyone who has spoken today, and I have a little bit of a challenging task to speak on behalf of so many of us youth who had some association with Yamuna Devi. And whose lives were really transformed by that relationship.  She left this world almost two years ago now.  I have spoken at different events and celebrations and glorifications and I still find it very, very difficult to know where to start. There is really so much to tell, so many stories, so many ways that she can be glorified.

Something that I just remembered this morning that was about nine months before she left, when she passed through England.  Just passing through from India where she had been receiving treatments, and was going back to America.  And she stopped for a few nights.  And I remember I had gone to see her with some other of her godsisters.  I was the only young person there. And I really felt like a fly on the wall. I felt so unqualified to be present in that gathering.  I was really just listening and watching as – it was like triveni – many auspicious rivers coming together.  It was about 15 godsisters, disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Many of them had not seen each other for many, many years. And they were all just exclaiming and crying and laughing. It was like seeing the gopis being together again after a long time being apart. They started to reminisce and speak about all their life experiences and all of the different challenges that they had faced.  And I listened, and I felt like I was getting an education. There were so many things that I had never thought about from their perspective.  So many periods of history that I hadn’t heard about from their mouths. And I began to appreciate more and more deeply the sacrifices and the struggles that they had all faced.  And I also saw how for so many of them, Yamuna Devi was kind of in the center, a source of profound inspiration and courage and strength.

Anyway, that day, she walked out for a second, into the kitchen, and I was standing there, and she just said to somebody who was also walking in.  “What a wonderful thing it is.  That Jahnavi and I, we play out these roles of being an Aunti and a young girl, but actually we are friends.  How wonderful it is, that between a seventy year old and a twenty-four year old, we can be friends, because that is Krsna consciousness.  It is beyond age, it is beyond anything on the bodily level. And this was the thing that I was remembering this morning.  That I felt such a genuine friendship with Yamuna Devi.  There was no – apart from the first time that I met her, when I really felt really reverential, that this is the person that sang Govindam Prayers, and all these things that come in your mind, what should I do?  Should I offer obeisances? How should I relate?  But she immediately blasted through all that – she just immediately said, “Jai! Hari bol!”  Grabbed me into an embrace.  I was eighteen. And she had that quality with all of us young people who came into her association.  There was no formality. Although being in her presence, you felt immediately very grave and very sober.  Because you could sense the profound depth of her character.  Her lifetime of service and sacrifice to Srila Prabhupada. You didn’t have to speak about it, you could just feel it, and you immediately became very sober.

But she also had this personality that was so joyful, so light, so humorous, and she invited us into her company just as a friend would.  We felt so comfortable. So understood.

I remember that first time I met her when I was eighteen, I had met her very briefly as a child.  We were only there at her asrama for 24 hours.  I just came with my Mom to drop somebody off, and we stayed one night.  And I feel that this was a moment that really changed my life.  Because before that I was happy to be a part of Iskcon. I had grown up in Iskcon, it was comfortable, it was my family.  But I can’t say that I really felt activated. I felt responsible for carrying out my own devotional service. So we came that day, and from the very first moment, she flung the door open, and she just grabbed us both and hugged us both and showered us with rose petals, like she would do for all her guests.  And immediately with a very grave expression she grabbed both of our hands and she pulled us in front of the altar and kind of gave us a little push toward Krsna.  She didn’t say anything like “Take darsana of Krsna”.  And there was this very sweet, fragrant cool air coming from the altar that was very, it was amazing, you just felt, “Krsna is here”.  And so we came and took darsana and then we spent a little time speaking with her.  She served us prasadam, that was the most amazing that I have tasted. Anyway, that is what you would expect me to say.  It doesn’t really describe the experience of it, it was a very spiritual experience.   But the thing that really touched me was – you know I have met many of my parents godbrothers and godsisters as a child growing up, and usually my experience was, they would ask me something like, “How is your school?” or something, and then they would go back to speaking about whatever they were and I would just sit in the background and just listen.  And I wasn’t prepared for how interested she would be in me.  I didn’t expect that.  She asked me so many questions.  And then she listened to what I had to say. And the next surprise was that she actually seemed to be impressed with what I was saying, and reflected on it, and said, “Oh, isn’t that interesting, Oh, really… how wonderful!”  And I thought, “Oh, am I saying something interesting, I don’t think so.”  You know, eighteen years old, and I thought,” Oh, maybe I do have something to say,…” Only later I realized,  I am just perfectly normal, like everybody else.”  But it was her incredible quality of whoever she met, she was able to just see exactly what things she could glorify about you, what things she could magnify just to encourage you and make you feel loved and connected with Krsna.  Connected with the whole family of vaisnavas. And she would just shower water there on the seed, on whatever was there beneath the surface would just gradually start to sprout and flourish.

So that day concluded with her regular Chaitanya Charitamrta reading, that she had with some devotees at Saranagati. I had also seen many devotees reading from the scriptures before, so I sat down and was listening.  The book was being passed around. And I was reading, and I was kind of glancing up at her occasionally.  We were reading about one of the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya and His associates where they were all enacting  the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra.  And I was looking up at her and I noticed that there were big tears just flowing down her face.  Usually if I would see any devotee expressing emotion in that way, crying or something I would feel a little bit cynical or wary.  But immediately I just had this impression of a devotee that was just drinking in the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya, just relishing so deeply in her heart, and that emotion was just coming out without her even realizing.  She wasn’t aware of it.  That struck me so much.  And I saw her do that so many times with so many things.   Even just as she would tell someone something.  She would sometimes tell some of us, “You can go back to Godhead in this one lifetime.  If you just take this process seriously.”  And big tears would roll down her face, and she would grab your hand and say, ‘Just take it seriously.  Just follow Srila Prabhupada and everything else will follow.”  So there are so many things that I could say.

I wanted to speak about her –  when she ate prasadam.  Everything she did was a meditation.  There was no beginning and no ending.  You know sometimes we start in the morning, “Okay, now let me meditate, chant my japa”.  But every moment for her was a meditation.  Everything she did, even just cleaning the house, she would be just singing the whole time, or she would be listening to Krsna katha.  Everything.

As I said before, she invited so many of us to participate in kirtan with her. And those of us that did, those of some of our deepest moments of kirtan.  I can say that I really started to understand a little bit what kirtan is in her association.  Seeing the way that she tasted the Holy Name.  And lastly, she had this amazing quality of being able to engage everybody in service.  And I think that is something that I take the most from her, a lesson for my own life.  How to become a better devotee.  To always look around me and see how can I encourage others, how can I engage others in service. This is something that she was constantly doing.  And she would meditate on it, how she could give different things for people to do, so that everyone felt engaged.

Sometimes she would have a little festival at home for the Deities.  A festival for cleaning all of the paraphanelia.  And decorating the altar. And she would put on a class or a kirtan, and she would give everybody a job to do. Whether it was polishing something, or collecting flowers, any little thing, and she would make you feel so important for doing that thing.

She would go from person to person, watching what you were doing, and correcting you a little bit, praisng your service. And then occasionally she would just exclaim, “Oh isn’t this just nectar! This is just the best thing! Isn’t this prabhu, the best thing you have ever felt?” And we would all say, “Yes!  Yes it is!”  And we were completely sincere, because we really felt that. So I just pray to be in some way engaged in that service for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful.  Hare Krsna.

Kadamba Kanana Swami

I heard the news last night just before taking rest that Yamuna has left this world. I dreamt about it and woke up with it. She was one of Srila Prabhupada’s most intimate and early disciples, an example of total dedication to him. One of the pioneers of this movement. Now her grace has left this world. She led Kirtana and Prabhupada was immensely pleased with her Govindam prayer, he ordered that it must be played every day in every temple. She learned how Prabhupada cooked and then more and more became an expert in Vedic cooking and became known through her award winning cook books.
Quickly browsing to the letters that Prabhupada wrote to Gurudasa her husband, “I have great regard for her”, and to Yamuna directly,” I have full faith in you.”

Yamuna was on the team that first went to London, this is from her memories;
“By the enthusiasm that Srila Prabhupada had given us in Montreal we were able to make contact with George Harrison, who was a member of the Beatles at the time. And he was such a pleasant person to be with. He so much appreciated the Hare Krishna mantra that he immediately said, “Lets make a 45 record.” So we cut a record and he was very pleased with it.He did a little background music on it and it was released and Apple organized tours for us. We went to Germany and France and had television coverage.
And in this way the London Times, the Sunday Times, wanted to do a feature on us. And we were able to send the report back to Srila Prabhupada with the headlines,
“Krishna consciousness startles London.” Sila Prabhupada was her life and soul and I am sure that she is now with him and again a devotee has left this world, who can not be replaced. I pray to her for the inspiration to dedicate my life to Srila Prabhupada.


Manu - Belgium

“All Glories to Yamuna Devi Dasi, one of the pioneers of our movement! Thank you for everything you have given us, for being such a wonderful example to all, for showing how to love Krsna, How to love the Holy Name and how to serve the Holy Name properly. Knowing that you have left us on this auspicious day has brought tears to my eyes, but knowing that you are now back with Sri Sri Radha and Krsna and in the association of Srila Prabhupada gives me a smile beyond others.

So I thank you from my heart for being such a staunch supporter of this festival that was inspired to me by your mercy.

You are a true example for all devotees and we will strongly miss you”

your humble servant,


MONDIKINI PRABHU:  (obeisances) He reasons ill who says that Vaisnava dies, when you are still living in sound.  And while living try to spread the Holy Name around.

So yes, Yamuna devi was such an expert devotee. And I got the good fortune of meeting Yamuna devi in December, 1969. Actually I would like to try to share with you the atmosphere that Yamuna Prabhu gave to the temple of Bury Place.  It was like a family atmosphere. Spiritual family.   Her and Gurudas, her husband, were just taking care lovingly of each devotee.  Yamuna Prabhu was the only pujari.  Prabhupada, as we know, had kidnapped practically, Sri Radha Londonisvara.  Before Sri Sri London Isvara came, one lady called Syama, gave Yamuna some small Deities.  Because she was really eager to serve the Lord in His original form.  And she told Srila Prabhupada very enthusiastically that she had received some Radha Krsna Deities in brass. And then Srila Prabhupada said, “You just give back these Deities.  This lady just wants to steal you from me.” So she obeyed.  And he told her, “Do not worry, Krsna will come.” And we know how Srila Prabhupada kidnapped these beautiful Deities and how he said, “Actually Radha and Krsna, They (cheat?) you.  They didn’t come as Deity, as murti, but They came Themselves.”

So Yamuna was so attached to the Deities, and she was the only pujari in Bury Place Temple.  She used to get up for Mangal aratik, and the other devotees would get up later.  We were having harinama, three times a day, and we came back quite late at night. So she was the only one at mangal aratik. And at this time mangal aratik was one hour and a half before sunrise. It was not the same time every day. But she really made the Deities the center of everyone’s life in the Temple.

Something very particular about Yamuna Prabhu was that she was training us, we were three French young girls, in seeing every service as a spiritual adventure. It was never boring.  She taught us how to use our intelligence, our skill to really worship the Lord. That service should never be a burden.  It should never be boring. But it should be a wonderful spiritual adventure, and everyday different.

So as Visakha Prabhu wonderfully explained, she had so many wonderful qualities. She was so expert and she did so many different things.  Her singing was really out of this world.  And we would gather many times a day, in front of Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara and sing together.

Once George Harrison wanted to make her famous all over the world. But she was not interested at all.  She didn’t care for fame. Although Srila Prabhupada said that fame will be her companion.

So in London, life in the temple was so wonderful. Everyday was different. Everyday was centered around the Deities.  And Srila Prabhupada taught a very special way of worshipping the Deities.  It was like the Vrndavana way.  In other temples, it was a bit more in awe and reverence. But in Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara Temple, it was just very simple, very spontaneous.

So as it was described, Yamuna left to go to India. And as it was so nicely described by Visakha Prabhu.  And this very, very beautiful temple of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama we owe it actually to Yamuna, to Gurudas, to Surabhi.  They did a lot of sacrifice because things, as we can see, things are very difficult to get done in Vrndavana.  And at one point of her life, Yamuna had to leave Gurudas, her husband, to start her single life.  And there is something very sweet and funny about that.  One time, Srila Prabhupada knew her decision, and he agreed to it.  And she was in his room with many devotees, and on the other side of the room was another devotee who was also single at that time.  So he told Yamuna, “Yamuna, now you are going to live with that devotee.”  That was Dinatarini.  They hardly knew each other. And Yamuna told us, she thought, “I hope I get along with that lady.”  It was actually a perfect arrangement, because they served together so perfectly.  And they were very complimentary (excuse my English).

I don’t want to take too much time, so I will go quickly to some little association I had.  I would like to elaborate about what Visakha said that Yamuna had so many wonderful projects that she started very expertly.  But somehow or other, due to Kali Yuga’s influence, she faced many, many difficulties, along with Dinatarini.

She had her restaurant in New York, She also had a beautiful project in England.  It was very amazing. It was one Lord who had a property, marvelous property, and his son was going to join the navy for one or two years.  So he wanted to find someone to look over the property. Yamuna and Dina applied, the rent was one pound a year.  But they had to take care of the property.  And that Lord was actually a friend of Prince Charles.  And as it started, Yamuna cultivated that Lord, and he was going to invite Prince Charles to come over.  But due to the difficulty of Kali Yuga, they had to stop the project.  They decided to go to Saranagati.  Many of you have gone there.  It was an artistic place, but very simple. Yamuna and Dina were building it themselves, actually.  It was an ecological straw bale house.  They told us how they were putting the walls up. (it was so cold in Canada), with their feet in warm water.  There was no water, no electricity, just a generator.  Dinatarini had to go on the icy roads to get water from somewhere else.  Visakha and Yadubara are living there, so they know how hard it can be in winter. While in Saranagati although it was quite a decision to live a remote life, because Srila Prabhupada had told them to take care of Deities, they followed that instruction.

Many, many devotees came to visit them in Saranagati.  Yamuna was also very active in celebrating many sublime festivals in Saranagati.  She wrote to me about some Parrot Festival.  All the community gathered for this celebration in a spirit of joy and loving service.  And as Srila Prabhupada said, every day can be a festival in Krsna Consciousness. So she had the art of making every day a festival.  She was gathering in Saranagati with devotees to have weekly Chaitanya Charitamrta class.  So even if we are in a remote place, we can gather and read the scriptures and share our realization.  One thing she took from Srila Prabhupada was the advice he gave to every one of us.  It was to succeed in spiritual life. To carry on with patience, enthusiasm and determination.  And that was the perfect recipe to succeed in spiritual life.

So we saw Yamuna devi in England also for the Forthieth Anniversary of Sri Sri London Isvara.  That was a time we shared history. All the heroes of London came, and they were singing together and sharing memories about the time.

Then she started having very bad health in Saranagati. At this time she wouldn’t spend too much time talking about it. She kept very equipoised.  She always said that this material world is not fit for a gentleman.

There is a very interesting pastime when she had to go to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital.  The devotees were so happy to serve her at the Hospital, but she wouldn’t want to be served. So Radhanath Maharaja was always telling the doctors, the nurses and the caretakers, “Please, do even more for Yamuna. Do this. Do that.”  And then she would get angry.  She would say to Radhanath Maharaja, “I don’t want to be served.”  He was very patient, and he said, “Do you remember how you loved to serve Srila Prabhupada? These devotees, they get Srila Prabhupada through your association, so you have to allow them to serve you.”  And then she said, “Okay.”  And then for a few days it was alright, and then again she would phone Radhanath Swami and say, “Oh, it is impossible.  Please tell them not to do so much service for me.”

Her health got a little better, it was not too stable, and it was too hard to go back to Saranagati, with it’s icy roads to get the water.  It was getting more and more dangerous.  So she went to Florida.  But she went through London. And some of the Godsisters and the young generation devotees we got to see her for a few days.  And it was really sublime. Wonderful kirtan, wonderful exchanges, as usual. Then she went to Florida.

In Florida her health, we thought, was going to be a little bit better.  But actually, then we got, all of us were so surprised when she left. I remember myself getting an email, I checked, it was Yamuna with a question mark.  I just opened it and I just read the words, but I just couldn’t believe it.  It just didn’t go through my brain.  Then we started exchanging between all of us who knew her, and tried to integrate the news.  I remember being very struck by something.  Dinatarini told us that she found Yamuna, early in the morning, sitting in an armchair, her hand in the bead bag.  Very peaceful.

In France we have a saying, when the police is catching a thief, we say, he has been caught with his hand in the bag.  Meaning that you can see the hand in the bag, he had been caught.  That is the proof.  So Yamuna, she had been caught. The hand in the bead bag.  That is the proof that she was chanting the Holy Name, and she actually she was ready. A few days before she had told Dina, “I am actually ready to go.”

Maybe I will read a few things she wrote.  Just before – it was the beginning of December, she wanted to go back to the Holy Dhama and she said, “I had some rough health episodes in October and November, and was not strong enough.  But I am getting better.”  Then she is describing a wonderful meeting. She had in Florida in Melbourne Beach, Madhava, Radhika, Jahnavi was there.  This was the atmosphere around her.

“Those last three days of November were especially over the top.  High quality sanga.  Powerfully rich kirtans and conversations with six special guests.  Our godsister, Srutirupa, who for a month in advance arranged for this, and then paid for their transportation to get all of the visitors here.  Besides Srutirupa were kirtaniyas and harmonium players, Madhava and Radhika from Mauritus and Vrndavana, but now travelling the globe.  Heavenly voiced kirtan chanter and violin player, Jahnavi.  Sweet and quiet kartala player, gentle Nadia from Alachua.  Expert mrdnga player and chanter Ananta also from Alachua.  This added up to an intimate group of devotees, who for three days, experienced a mix of penetrating and powerfully rich activities.  Absolutely glorious kirtan and katha discussions.  Of course with prasadam and japa walks and ocean rejuvenation.  Ages ranging from 18 to 22, 24, 38, 48, 55, 63, to 70.  So it goes to show that intense eagerness, conscious connection transcends all superficial boundaries of designation.  Right?”

Then she said, (it was the beginning of December):  “If my health permits it, and Krsna sanctions it, we will try to get to India.  We will head to Mayapur, to repeat the experience of chanting Bhaktivinode bhajans session.”  Then she invited me, and I was so eager to go. But she said, if Krsna permits and sanctions it.  She says, “Of course we cannot buy a ticket to India.  We can buy a ticket to India as a tourist, but we cannot purchase a ticket to reach the Holy Dhama and experience second by second, Krsna consciousness.  That can only be attained by (?)  mercy. “

That was earlier, this was in 2009, she discussed about Vrndavan Dhama.  She said, “More than ever, pilgrims and residents must learn to see Vrndavana with heart and ears. And not externally with the eyes, nose or other senses.  Though there are still pockets of old Vrndavana fairly intact, Maya continues to blanket much of the Dhama with her illusory energy so that externally it continues to look more like a tourist destination than spiritual dhama. “ And she described how hard it can be.  Then she says, “So how to access the real Vrndavana. The same way we must in other Krsna conscious temples around the world.  Water the root of the bhakti tree by chanting the holy names and purifying our hearts, hear nicely from the right source, follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, serve the guru and vaisnavas, and put Krsna in the center. “

That was really Yamuna, her really great, great concern was that the old devotees, Srila Prabhupada disciples, sometimes they had to face so many difficulties in the past. And so many of them became discouraged.  So she was so frightened that Srila Prabhupada’s disciples wouldn’t share that wonderful mood of Srila Prabhupada.  So she really asked all of us to share that wonderful mood.  Never to become discouraged even in facing difficulties.  But now our duty is to push it on to the next generation.

Of course our wonderful godbrothers, the spiritual masters are doing that so nicely, but she wanted all of us to do it.  So Yamuna Prabhu, for most of us who knew her, she is such a wonderful vaisnava and we are quite confident that she is serving Srila Prabhupada somewhere. And when time comes for us to go, either in this life or in many lives, she will already have in mind some little service for us. So thank you very much, dear prabhus, to try to say a few words of glorification about that most extraordinary devotee, Yamuna devi, and may she bless us with pure devotional service to Srila Prabhupada and help us to help in spreading the mission of Lord Chaitanya.

Hare Krsna.

Sivarama Swami

This morning, I received a message that spoke about Yamuna devi dasi’s passing. And therefore I wanted to say a few words about her. Even if devotees have not met her, everyone knows of her, from the fact that every morning we are associating with her as she is singing Govindam adi Purusam, to the Deity greeting.

Any biography, whether it be Your Ever Well Wisher, or any other biographies, she inevitably plays the role of one of Srila Prabhupada’s first disciples, one of the grhastha couples who came to England and inaugurated the preaching here, and who served in India.

I didn’t get to meet her until 1985, 84, or 86, when she and mother Dinatarine came to UK and they stayed in England for maybe a year or longer, I cannot remember exactly.  She was already involved in writing her Magnum Opus cookbook.

And I had the opportunity to hear her give class, hear her lead kirtan, speak with her some, and particularly taste her cooking. Of which I will speak last, because I think it was the best cooking.

For me, Yamuna devi was one of those devotees, who as soon as you meet them, you knew that this is not the first life that they were practicing Krsna consciousness. And had an actual affinity, not only for Krsna consciousness, but a natural connection with Srila Prabhupada.

One thing was to be one of the first devotees, it just seemed like she was Srila Prabhupada’s daughter. That of course I am not speaking of from first hand experience, but from what I have read. But the impression that she gave as a special person, that was my first hand experience.

How she spoke, and she talked, and especially she had such a lovely smile, she was very, very warm and caring person. A very beautiful person.

I remember once, either we were talking, or it was a class, that she gave at Chaitanya College, I remember it well. And it may have been Prabhupada’s appearance or disappearance.  And she was talking about her days with Srila Prabhupada at Radha Damodara Temple.  And she made mention that Srila Prabhupada said that he eternally lives at Radha Damodara, and that Radha Damodara Temple is the hub of the wheel of the universe.

There are many, many things that she spoke of her experiences with serving Srila Prabhupada. Travelling with him, cooking for him. She was one of the persons who Srila Prabhupada taught to cook.

I will speak about her cooking. She was  very, very – her cooking for me also spelled out her personality. And I can’t complain that I have not tasted good cooking in this life, and I don’t want just to emphasize her cooking by saying that it was the best. In terms of taste, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.  But it certainly was the cooking that left it’s greatest mark on me. Let’s put it that way. Impressed me the most.

There were different events. I remember we used to have different luncheons, when Bhagavan das was the GBC of UK and she would cook.

But one particular meal that I remember, I had asked her to cook for the sankirtana devotees.  And we still had what was called Aldaman(?) House. And so she did. The interesting thing was that she began cooking the day before. She cooked breakfast.  It wasn’t something big, feast with many preparations.

It was light, it was very, very nice. Very, very tasty. And what was very, very extraordinary for me was it’s appearance.  It – I have never been to a Cordon Bleu six star real gourmet restaurant, but I imagine that that is how they prepare – very, very meticulously. Very, very nice looking preparations. Everything nicely set. And of course she served as well.

It was just a real experience. Everything looked beautiful, tasted beautiful, it was served beautiful.  For me that reflected who she was, and as I am talking about her cooking, I think I am talking about her.

It was a real experience that I remember, and it happened twenty five years ago. I remember good cooking experiences, but this one I especially remember.

And for me that was a way of understanding who she was. I say that she presented that meal and her cooking was such precision. I won’t even say artist – because artist’s can be messy.  Sometimes.  But it was surgical precision. It was beautiful, it was wonderful, and it tasted good  because her consciousness, her Krsna consciousness was in it. She took it as her dharma, her religion.

And probably of all the experiences and there weren’t that many, others knew her more, spent more time with her. But that is the one that will always stick in my mind. And I think that I will always remember Yamuna devi dasi, based on that one breakfast at Aldernon House (?)

Yamuna devi dasi ki jai!

Syamasundari devi dasi

Mother Yamuna, my first association with her was I think it was mid eighties.  I was a Deity cook. We had this huge stately home, which used to be used by the Queen of Holland during the war time. And that was our temple.  And Yamuna was living not far from the temple.  I think she was working on her cookbooks.

So we had a get together at Urvasi’s house. She always liked us to sit in a circle and she would always say, “Come closer.”  She was very easy to associate with. You didn’t feel uncomfortable with her. She was very warm and loving.

And then it was the 25th Anniversary for Radha Gokulananda, and Mother Yamuna visited England again. And we were cooking in the kitchen, because we had to serve like thousands of devotees. And when she seen me, she just hugged me and gave me a very warm, like she pressed your hands very hard.

She was preparing a south Indian dish,  but I don’t think she could get all the ingredients she wanted. Curry leaves, mustard seeds, and I think she used spaghetti.  You know, in Iskcon, if you are  a famous cook, everybody scrutinizingly wants to taste the preparation you make. It was delicious. But I couldn’t partake, I am always cooking in the kitchen.

Yamuna is very kind. I have an older son Bhakti,who is 35 years old.   He is a carpenter in interior design. So she kindly engaged him in Saranagati with the house she built It was designed in a way so that in winter, if it is cold, it is like straw in between the walls – straw bale.  And in summer, it keeps it cool.

So he didn’t want to take any money from her because she is a widow.  So she bought him a sapphire ring. And he still has it. She gave him a cookbook.

Then again I have moved to Mayapur.  We  retired there, and have been living there for six years.  She visited and – we had a festival – Gopastami – and Yamuna was busy with the flower outfit.

Then on her last visit again she came to Mayapur, and I was telling her – because it was difficult to get in, they were only allowing the gurukulis, to visit her in her apartment.  She was just doing bhajans.  You had to be in the crowd, you know?

To be with Mother Yamuna, and we just couldn’t get to be in there.  It was just luck, because on her way out going to apartment, Jahnavi was there, and I greeted her, and she didn’t really recognize me until I said “Bhakti’s mother”. But it is just amazing. AS I said, “Bhakti”  he called from Vrndavana.  And then he spoke to her for a while, and he was getting married.  And she said, Bhaktiji, you know, how she always addresses ‘ji’.

She blessed him, she said you have my full blessings They spoke briefly, and she was like having difficulty climbing on the flatbed.

As a cook, I do workshops, but I am not doing that anymore.  Mother Yamuna has left for millions of people all over the world, her glorious cook book, and for generations all over the world, we will be singing Govindam prayers, hearing Mother Yamuna’s voice every day.

So like Prabhupada is not on the planet any more, but he is living in his books.  So Yamuna, all over the world, will be continually glorified with her cookbooks and Govindam prayers.

So thank you so much for allowing me to speak. Hare Krsna.



Bada Haridas

BADAHARI PRABHU:   Hare Krsna.  I was always extremely embarrassed singing in front of Yamuna, but she was very encouraging. And we sang this together one time, and as many times when we were doing kirtan, there would just be tears rolling down her cheeks.  She was just, it is described how devotee’s have, their heart is melted. And she really had that quality of just a soft heart.  When things reminded her of Krsna or Srila Prabhupada, her emotions would come to the surface very easily.  So we had an experience of singing this song with her, so I thought we could sing it today, at Jahnavi’s request.

So this is a song by Vasudeva Ghosh, and he sings “Yadi …  If Lord Gaura had not appeared as the Yuga Avatara in this Age of tolerated living?  Who in this universe would have ever learned about the topmost limits of loving mellows that comprise the glory of Sri Radha?  Who would have had the power to render ecstatic devotional service that follows in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja?  Indeed the clever expertise of the Vraja gopis is the prerequisite for entering the supremely sweet forest of Vrnda Devi.  Oh please sing again and again the glorious qualities of Lord Gauranga!  Just try to keep your heart simple.  Not even one person within this ocean of nescience has ever seen such a magnaminous personality as He.  Even though I chant the holy name of Lord Gauranga, somehow I still have not melted in ecstasy.  How then have I maintained the burden of this body?  How has the creator fashioned this body with a stone in place of Vasu Ghosh’s heart? “

Sorry we do not have song sheets for everyone, but the words are fairly simple, so you can follow.

(Chants bhajan)

Bala Nitai das and Dena


  1. clean pots:  We were in Saranagati for the first time.  We were going to a program for Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja.  Her grace Yamuna devi prabhu had made a preperation.  I asked of i could carry the big pot.  She indicated that would be nice.  As i picked up the pot i noticed it was emacutatly clean.  not a spot on it.  When cooking with oil you get this brownish color on the bottom, you know that one has to scrub to get off.  Well this pot look new!  I asked ‘is this pot new?’  She laughed, ‘No, it is quite old.  Then very seriously said, ‘ Srila Prabhupada trained us in this way.’  I was deeply impressed.  To see a pot that was so clean, yet used for so many years.
  2. Deity bathing:  Our first Mangal arati at Sri Sri Radha-Banabhari bhakti kutir asrama.  I had taken my bath and was sitting chanting japa, waiting while Sri Sri Radha Banabhari was being woken from There night rest.  I opened my eyes at one point while Yamuna devi prabhu was sitting in front of the altar in deep meditation, for about 15 minutes or so.  I was wondering what her meditation was, so later I asked her.  She said, “I was collecting water from the Yamuna river to bathe Sri Sri Radha-Banabhari.  Every time I come the same boat man helps me gather Their water.”  This seems simple but being there and feeling the devotional atmosphere was really something I hadn’t experienced yet in my life.  Not to mention the level of bhakti one must be on to perform manasi puja for the deity form of the Lord.
  3. In one email she wrote these words, which are an example of how she wanted to encourage even the most insignificant of persons trying to become Krishna conscious.  Her motherly love and unwavering dedication to Srila Prabhuapda has been so inspiring for countless devotees, especially to ISKCON’s second generation. She wrote, “Continue to chant Hare Krishna, both in kirtan and with japa.  Increase this as far as possible.  Relish the wealth of the process of bhakti yoga.  Never be artificial, but give the process the time it needs to increase in intensity.  This will enrich your lives in wonderous ways.”

Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Goswami

It is with mixed feeling that I find myself again writing a brief eulogy so soon for a departed God brother or God sister, in this case Yamuna Devi Dasi. I say mixed feelings because I understand that her health has not been good for a long time, which means suffering to one extent or another. I haven’t had her association for some ten years, but when I last saw her, her health was certainly nothing to brag about even then; thus going to be with Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha Krishna in a spiritual body is a magnificent upgrade. Some prabhus are saying we should pray for her, but I respectfully submit that there is no need, for Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani Herself personally came to take Yamuna home without even a slight doubt. Srila Prabhupada Has come to escort much lesser persons back to Godhead, what to speak of an exalted soul like Yamuna.

I am forever indebted to her, in particular, for creating such a wonderful mood in the San Francisco temple in 1968 when I joined. She and her extended “family” of Guru das, Malati, Syamasundar, Janaki, and others created a truly warm family feeling which touched my heart, making feel completely at home in this new spiritual environment. Yamuna was always soft hearted, kind, gentle, compassionate, caring, motherly, tolerant, having so many other good qualities of a vaishnavi as well. The prasadam was super fabulous, gourmet to the maximum. After all, she was personally trained how to cook by Srila Prabhupada. Of course the talented group of cooks added their own touch with deep dish apple pie with oatmeal crust, and other fine dishes. One of my first services was to help them roll the samosas for the Sunday feast. I thought it was great fun learning how to crimp the edges artistically. Under the direction of Yamuna and her associates, everything was cooked in pure ghee. In those days the devotees had to make their own ghee from unsalted butter, by cooking it down over a low flame until it turned pure gold color. It took hours to complete. There was no question of running to an Indian store for ghee because there weren’t any. Never the less, no one, not even one of the devotees, ever thought of using vegetable oil. It never even crossed their minds! After all, they were trained by Srila Prabhupada. Unlike “modern ISKCON”, there was no consideration of the cost, even though the devotees were so poor they often couldn’t even pay the rent for the temple room. Cooking had to be in ghee, because Srila Prabhupada ordered so, and it was for Lord Jagannath.

One of the best ways to honor Yamuna is to try to implement her heart felt appeal before the GBC in March, 2000. She fervently emphasized the urgency of establishing high standards of integrity in the various leadership roles in ISKCON; that leaders should not be chosen merely for their material portfolio, even as big projects come up like the new Mayapur temple. Let us all strive to assist her desire by helping ISKCON to raise its standards even as ISKCON continues to grow worldwide.

Respectfully submitted,

Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Goswami

Bhakti Marg Swami

A glance from the master

And out from disaster

Came lady of fineness

Of gentleness, kindness,

Of humility and talent

An absolute Godsend.

Her voice is forever more at the 7 AM score

That voice of grace is found in every place

Conquering the morning

Then afternoon, evening.

She’s now gone home

And ended her roam.

There’s simply no substitute

Feeling is destitute.

A friend gone

A chef gone

She gave so much

Of the Prabhupada touch.

Candramauli Swami

Dear Srimati Yamuna Devi       Dec.21,2011

Please accept my most humble obeisance. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Now that you have left us here at this earthly realm I am feeling a very great loss. Mostly because over the years I didn’t take advantage of your most sweet and motherly association. That association you gave to me many years back as we talked together while taking prasadam at the house of Nathji Prabhu in Mumbai. I was given the great fortunate to sit next to you as many of us dined together with HH Radhanath Maharaja and members of Nathji’s family and others. It was our first meeting and an event that left me with a deep impression of you as a very loving deeply caring devotee and Mother. You graciousness overflowed as you described the different
preparations that were served. But what struck me most is that I felt very much loved and cared by you, although we just had meet for the first time. I keep these memories deep within my heart and pray that you are now at the lotus side of Srila Prabhupada once again. No doubt you are greatly missed by the ISKCON family. Praying we will meet once again in pure loving service to His Divine Grace. All glories to your glorious service.

Hare Krsna

Thank You eternally


Chitralekha devi dasi

From the time I first met Yamuna, in India 1971, I was awe struck at her loving devotion to Srila Prabhupada. She seemed to be in another world, on a level of spiritual understanding and devotion that most of us couldn’t even phantom or approach…at least I felt like that.

I arrived in India from Fiji Islands with my husband, Upendra, in April 1971. I was young and naïve with only one and a half years behind me in devotional service. Yamuna, in a motherly way, took me under her wing directed me with loving kindness on the do’s, don’ts and how to’s of living in India.

I always felt that Yamuna was the most beloved female disciple of Srla Prabhupada. To me this evident when he would call her to his room in Calcutta to discuss how to improve the deity worship, or instruct her in cooking.

I remember Yamuna telling me that when Prabhupada was creating the first GBC, he told her he wanted to put her on it, but the men would not accept it. Srila Prabhupad trusted Yamuna’s

Yamuna was asked to train me in deity worship, so I worked with her on Radha Govinda’s altar for about a week or two. Then one morning Yamuna asked me to dress Radha Govinda by myself. I was very nervous about dressing Them knowing that the devotees would be having darshan. My fears were quickly confirmed when after greeting the deities, Tamal Krishna called Yamuna over and questioned who had dressed the deities…They didn’t look so nice. Yamuna, quickly came to my defense saying, “I think Chitralekha dressed Them with as much love as she could muster.” That was the end of the conversation. She had summed it up exactly as it was…I’m still working on mustering the love.

Yamuna also engaged me in helping her cook and serve prasadam to Prabhupada. I remember cooking fried bitter melon, but we didn’t just slice it and fry it. We soaked it in salt water for a couple of hours to help tone down the bitterness, dried it off and then fried it.

Toward the end of Calcutta pandal program, the ladies who were preparing Prabhupada’s evening prasadam would ride back in the car with Prabhupada. It was very a simple meal of puffed rice and hot milk to prepare, but sometimes there were 4 or 5 of us crammed in the back seat, sitting on each others’ laps, even though all of us weren’t cooking, it was the opportunity to ride back with Srila Prabhupada.

During the Calcutta pandal program, preparing evening prasadam for Prabhupada at the temple was the sweetest, because the men were still at the program, so only the ladies were there to serve him. Often, Yamuna would ask me to bring Prabhupada’s plate to him in his room.  She was always nurturing the love in simple ways.

Aside from the financial difficulties and the arguing at the Calcutta temple, the women were not treated very kindly by some of the men. At that time, it was very dangerous in neighboring areas with mass slayings, pillaging, etc…it was a very bad time politically.  Kausalya and I were going to visit a potential life member at their house in northern Calcutta. We asked the temple treasurer, Revatinandana, for travel money, and he only gave us enough to go one way. So, we went to visit the life member, took prasadam at their house, and when it was time to return, we had no money so we hitch-hiked back to the temple. Krishna protected us!

I love this story…We were all invited to a life members house for a program and prasadam. The men took the available cars and went ahead. When the ladies came out to leave we were told that there were no more cars to take us. So, we lined up at the door to see Srila Prabhupada off as he was leaving for the program. When he saw us standing there he stopped and asked if we were coming. We told him that there weren’t any more cars to take us, so we couldn’t go. Much to our surprise and elation, Srila Prabhupada told us to come with him. So, we all piled in the back seat of the car and went to the program with Srila Prabhupada, our eternal father and protector. I don’t remember clearly if Yamuna was with us or if she had gone ahead with Gurudas to the program.

A very significant event in ISKCON history took place in Calcutta. Yamuna had been asking Srila Prabhupada if we could dress Krishna in a dhoti. He kept saying no, we should continue to dress Him in a skirt. (In the early days of deity worship, Srila Prabhupada instructed us to dress Krishna in a skirt, worshiping Their Lordships as Lakshmi Narayana.) From time to time, Yamuna continued to request permission from Srila Prabhupada to dress Krishna in a dhoti. Finally Prabhupada said yes with specific instructions to have a border. So, we made Krishna’s first dhoti. I had been sewing all my life, and from the beginning of temple life was sewing for the deities. So, I took measurements and made a pattern, and together we created our ISKCON Krishna’s first dhoti for Sri Sri Radha Govinda!

We went to Delhi for the pandal program, which is a bit of a blur for me. But I do remember that Yamuna became very sick with jaundice while in Delhi, so Tamal Krsna asked me to take care of her. (I had grown up with a mother who was a nurse, so was savvy to nursing procedures.) I think I spent most of the pandal by Yamuna’s side, taking care of her needs, though she was a bit independent if she had the strength.) Srila Prabhupada would ask about her health daily, he was always concerned for her wellbeing.

Soon after the Delhi pandal, Srila Prabhupada took us all to Vrndavan for a week. Yamuna was well enough to travel, so all 30-40 devotees traveled in a bus with Srila Prabhupada to Vrndavan.

We arrived at Sharaf Bhavan, owned by a life member. Srila Prabhupada stayed in two rooms in the main building upstairs, there was a large room in the middle where we met for a morning program and class and on the other side of the large room were two or three rooms, where the women stayed. Daily Srila Prabhupada took us to holy places around Vrndavana Dhama.

One day, while we were on pilgrimage, I washed Prabhupada’s plate for his lunch prasadam and placed it in front of him. He immediately scolded me for not drying it off first. I was devastated. The smallest service and I messed it up.

On the way to Vrndavana Palika started feeling sick. So, when it was time for all the devotees to leave Vrndavan with Srila Prabhupada, Tamal Krishna asked me to stay there with Yamuna, for her to have more recovery time and to help take care of Palika. We moved into Srila Prabhupada’s rooms at Sharaf Bhavan and stayed there on our own for about a month.

That was the most incredible month of my entire life! I couldn’t even grasp how much mercy Krishna was giving me to have such intimate association with the holy dhama and Yamuna’s depth of devotion to guide me.

Yamuna and I would take turns staying with Palika while the other would walk to Madana Mohana temple for darshan and to drink water from the well or Radha Damodar mandir for aroti and darshan of Srila Prabhupada’s rooms and Srila Rupa Goswami’s samadhi.

One day during a visit to Radha Damodar temple, I walked around the praikrama path to Srila Rupa Goswami’s Samadhi. The door of the Samadhi was open and the pujari was inside cleaning. As I offered obeisances in front of the Samadhi, the pujari motioned for me to come inside. So, I carefully stepped inside Srila Rupa Goswami’s Samadhi. As I knelt down to offer obeisances, I noticed a small piece of cotton on the floor from the Rupa Goswami’s quilt. I placed my hand over it, taking it with me as I arose with folded hands thanking the pujari. I felt like the most fortunate person in the universe that day.

One day Yamuna and I thought that Palika was strong enough to leave her alone for a little while, so we could go into town together. We returned to find that a monkey, who entered through the window looking for something to eat, had almost attacked Palika.  We never left her alone again!

Yamuna and I would take turns cooking for the three of us in the outside courtyard kitchen. We would build a fire outside where we would roll and cook chapatis. She warned me about the monkeys, but I didn’t take it very seriously. It was my day to cook, so there I was by the fire with chapati balls lined up waiting to be rolled and cooked when a monkey jumped down beside me and grabbed two handfuls of chapatti balls. That monkey scarred me out of my mind. I learned the hard way

Yamuna was always conscientious about cleanliness, and would teasingly instruct me about my kitchen habits, which weren’t up to par. All these years have passed and I can still hear her in her kind but firm way, telling me to clean the kitchen. She had such a gentle way of saying things, that no one would ever take offense.

Every day we would have our simple morning program…chanting, reading. It was the time of the Pakistani war with India,, so there was a black out every evening. We couldn’t even burn candles for light, though we tried. One evening we wanted to read, so we hung blankets over the windows and lit a candle to read Bhagavad-gita. It wasn’t long before we had a knock at the door, scolding us for having a light.

Another evening just past dusk, we needed milk so I left the quarters with a milk container and a candle. About half way to the milk walla someone blew out my candle and I had to find my way back in the dark.

Achyutananda Mahahraj lived on the other side of Vrndavana with Rishi Kumar. They were the only other ISKCON devotees in Vrndavana at the time, so we went to visit them once or twice.

Daruka das

One evening at the Radha-Govinda Mandir in Brooklyn, during the Darshan, a senior devotee woman Prabhu stood next to me.I do not know for sure that she was Yamuna devi dasi, but her mood was deeply devotional and for that brief time the Krsna Prema was palatable!

Devarsi das

I have been super blessed, to have know Yamuna for the last twenty years. And I first me her in 1991, and I was relatively new to Krsna consciousness.  My wife and I were living in Atlanta, I was at Chiropratic School there. And Yamuna had suffered some surgery, so she came to visit and stay with us,and we were to help her recover a little bit.

And I was so excited, because I had heard about this great personality, larger than life  This was the case.  And she came and the essence of that whole visit was  how her experiences of Srila Prabhupada were so profound. And she shared story after story after story, of her experiences with Srila Prabhupada.

And for me, as a new person, this was very impacting.  I was completely moved, and the essence of the whole thing was that came through was really how much love Srila Prabhupada had for his disciples.  How much care and concern that Srila Prabhupada had for his disciples. And this came through loud and clear in every story that she shared.

We also had a chance to experience her divine nature in the kitchen. I think there was actually a picture up there in our kitchen.  I remember watching her walk into the kitchen, and she just walked in and said, “I am going to make a little something.”

So we were sitting out in the living room, and I think there were one or two other folks with us.  And I kept turing over and looking into the kitchen. And as Yogesvara mentioned, she was very light on her feet. So it appeared to me, that I couldn’t see the lower half of her body, because of the counter.  But it appeared to me that she was floating in the kitchen.  Back and forth, and she would reach up to the cabinet and she would grab something – go across here and grab something  – I kept thinking “She has never been in our kitchen before.  How does she know where anything is?  How does she know what is there?”

So a few minutes later this nutloaf appeared. I had heard about self manifesting Deities, so I just assumed that this was a self manifesting nut loaf. But it was an extraordinary start to a wonderful friendship that endured to this day.

It was the continued a short time later when I graduated from Chiropractic school.  I got a good news a couple months ahead of time. She had called and invited us both up, as a celebration for graduating Chiropractic school.

So we went up, and I was to receive another experience and lesson, in vaisnava etiquette. When we arrived, we went to the room that she had prepared for us. And I was stunned. The ambience in the room, the cleanliness in the room.  It was so mesmerizing, so beautiful.  There was treats on the pillows.  I had never experienced anything.  I found out how much care and love that she had put into the preparation of – I just couldn’t get over it.  It just totally stunned me.

And of course we had some wonderful experiences feasting and feasting and more feasting.  She said I was there to rest and restore after my experiencing Chiropractic School.

After we left Atlanta, we went out to (Scots?) I wanted to open a practice out there.  It wasn’t too long, 1995, where it was time where I decided that I needed to go to a deeper level.  And I wanted to take initiation.

And there was Yamuna and Dinatarine again. They guided me, every step of the way.  They took very serious care of me. At every moment. They answered all my questions. They very much facilitated my experience and relationship with Bhakti Tirtha Swami in a very deep and profound way.

And just another experience of how much they cared each and every person that they knew.  Yamuna became my best friend in Krsna consciousness.  She was oceanic, vast and deep. There was no subject that you couldn’t cover with her.  No limit to the depth to which she could go with it. She was an extraordinary friend and taught me so  very, very much.

These last couple of days I have been meditating on the qualities that she possessed. And that I would want and that I would want any of us to have.  First and foremost I found her to be the personification of personalism.  She was so present with each person who was in front of her.  She was able to draw out their strengths and talents and abilities. She was able to identify people’s skills and she would just go right to that, and acknowledge those and you felt so loved and so cared for and so acknowledged. This was a tremendous healing for me, and I saw it as a tremendous healing for everybody that she came in front of.

Other skills that I saw her possess and share with others  She was very, very encouraging. And she would always inspire the best in each person. If you just showed a little bit of interest in anything, she would just fan that spark and encourage you to no end.

She was also very enthusiastic. As you heard from Nirmala, the day before she left, she called her, and what she wanted to share with her everything she was going to do when we got there.  Which was today, by the way, we were scheduled to be there today. And spend the week with her, this week. But she was very enthusiastic. This whole twenty years.

The next thing that she was so wonderful at. Just her beautiful abilities – how do I put it?  To be grateful She was grateful. Every time that I knew her, she was just continually grateful. For what Prabhupada has given her  Let me tell you this last year was challenging. But she saw the beauty in it, she saw Krsna’s hand in everything.  She was so grateful all the time.

And if you ever did any little thing for her. She let you know about it for days. And acknowledged every little thing that you had to share with her

The last thing that I want to share, is basically the essence of everything in my relationship with her, and it is expressed on a little clip and a little film that is coming up next year called The Vaisnavis. The women of bhakti. I saw a little trailer of it And basically there was a statement where she said, “If you are living bhakti, you give bhakti” .

And my experience with her, she just lived it continuously. And all the time she lived it, breathed it, ate it, and gave it to us all.

I just want to thank Yamuna so very, very much, for all the care, the love, guidance and direction she poured into my simple little life.

I want to thank Dinatarine so very, very much, eternally for all the love, care and devotion that she poured into my life.

And I want to thank Srila Prabhupada for building this boat which we can all jump on board.

Hare Krsna.

Ekavira das

At Chowpatty 2011 memorial

I have to admit Maharaja that the chocolate cake was the best chocolate cake that I have had in my life. And as Vrajalila was sharing, her Grace Yamuna, she used to come to the Institute in Washington on many different occasions, before she moved to Washington D.C. And Bhakti Tirtha maharaja used to train the devotees all of us,in a way that was, as he expressed, ‘we want to please our guests that they feel most excited when they leave the institute.  And the success of the Institute would be based upon how these devotees feel after they leave the association of that center.

So Yamuna used to come there, and we would serve her in such a way, and on the last occasion, she came about three or four times. And because of the love that I have experienced from His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami and his disciples, that I have decided to come to Washington D.C.

So we are most grateful to Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja that by his influence, we were able to have more association, she actually came there.

On one particular occasion, she expressed that she was moving at a certain time. So we told her, “Please let us know, and we will have a crew at your doorstep, helping you to do whatever you need us to do.”

So we were moving things from the moving van into the home, and she was directing us, telling us where to put things. And every now and then she would disappear for a few minutes, and then she would come back.  And after we finished moving all of her things into her home, she said, “come. Come into the kitchen. Now we will take prasadam.”

Mother Yamuna, she was an amazing, I mean, to say she was an amazing cook is an understatement.  She was extremely empowered.  And she said, “this is a new recipe, so we are going to try it out on you guys. So please come in.” So on all occasions, when she made a preparation, it was just so beautiful. Just as we look at Radha Gopinath, and we see how attractive They are, how beautiful They are, and They make the ornaments and clothing make more attractive and beautiful.

When she would place things on the plate, the prasadam, the plate would look attractive. You would say, “Is this plate edible?” It would just, everything, the colours, a picture of exquisite beauty.  They were culinary masterpieces.

I remember one godbrother and I, we were looking at the preparations, and he said, “I don’t – I want to honour this, but I don’t want to eat it. This is something we should put on the altar, and offer incense and aratik to.”  And all of her preparations were like that.

And I remember, I was a heavy eater at that time. I had a heavy appetite.  And she put so little on the plate. And I remember thinking, I need another plate at least. But the prasadam was so tasty that it was so filling and so satisfying because of the love that she put into everything that she prepared.

We were separate from Yamuna and Dinatarine prabhus for many years, and we only had communication by email or letter during the time that His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja was departing.  And then His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja gave me an instruction, to go to the Holy Dhama and take shelter of the holy name.  And so I was in Sridhama Mayapur, Vrajalila and I, in 2010.  And I remember paying dandavats in front of Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja’s Samadhi,and I prayed to him, to actually to help me to follow this instruction and take shelter of the holy name, in a way that is pleasing to him.

And I got up off of the ground, and there was a devotee standing there. And I didn’t know the devotee, and the devotee said, “Are you Ekavira?” And I said, “Yes.”  And they said, “I have a message for you from Yamuna.  She has a kirtan group and she would like you and Vrajalila to come and participate in this kirtan group. And it starts in two days.” And I said, “Wow. This is really quick.  I just made this prayer, and as soon as I got up, this devotee was standing here.”

And so we participated in this group.  I remember it was a very small intimate gathering approximately twelve devotees, and Mother Yamuna spoke before everything began, and she expressed how important the prayers of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura were.

And she expressed how Srila Prabhupada emphasized how she should learn and study the prayers of Bhaktivode Thakura. And then she gave certain pastimes with Prabhupada and how he expressed that no one writes prayers like Narottama Das Thakura and Bhaktivinode Thakura. And she talked about how he used to just sit on the porch and just chant a line over and over and over again. And for an hour or so, and just reflect on Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. And so she said for years she didn’t really take that instruction very seriously. But then she started to take it seriously.

And she started to study the prayers. And then she started encouraging other devotees to study the prayers. And she formed this kirtan group. And when we came into this kirtan group – I had the experience that when a person had a kirtan group that they were the main ones that were chanting and leading the group.

But in her kirtan group, she had so many devotees that had talent, they were amazing chanters. Devotees doing the yoga programs through out the world, chanting  in different studios, 24 hour kirtan devotees from Vrndavana. Many devotees who were so talented.

But there was one particular devotee that was leading, and he had such a subtle voice.  And I was talking to Mother Yamuna after the program one time when we were in Mamagachi. And she was expressing that , his name was Kartamisa Prabhu. She said that he has a very simple voice, nothing special.  But he does something that is quite unique.  He chants without the ego.  He does what is called ego-less chanting.

And therefore, that is the reason why he is the leader of our kirtan group. So when she addressed the gathering, she expressed, I would like you to make a few commitments. One is to be here.  If you are starting today, to be here, throughout the duration of this program.

It will last at least two weeks. And we will chant from  6:30 until 9 o’clock. And we would like you be on time.  To be punctual. All of the devotees time here is valuable, and we want to start on time and end on time. And she expressed that we would like you to chant from your heart.  To fully participate and give your all while you being here.

The kirtan leader is very important, but even more important than the kirtan leader are those who are actually participating in the kirtan and responding to the leader. And then she said, we would also like you to leave your capals and egos at the door.

Leave your shoes and ego at the door. And she just had the amazing combination of the love of a mother, the gravity of a warrior and the simplicity and ease of a child. And that simplicity was such that it encouraged people to approach her. She was so approachable and so loving.

And many of the devotees said so many wonderful things. She was extremely funny. She had a keen sense of humour. We all at the Institute referred to her as Mother Yamuna. And we saw her as our mother, even Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja.

And whenever I respond or speak to her.  I remember again, in Mamagachi, I asked her, I had a question.  I said, “Mother Yamuna,” and she turned and she said “Yes, Father Ekavira”

And that wasn’t the first time she did it.  I thought, “oh, she got me again.” That was the only time me Ekavira. Whenever I called her Mother Yamuna she called me Ekavira or Father Ekavira. The other times she called me Eka.  Yes Eka?  She always had a little nickname for the devotees.

She was always so wonderful and so loving. And her chanting, The devotees talked about her chanting. During that time at Mamagachi, the devotees, she was having difficulty walking. So when the devotees got off the boat she said, “you all go ahead, I am just going to sit here.” And so everyone got off the boat, and she said, “Eka, go ahead, go with the devotees.”  And I said, “No, that’s okay, I’ll stay here.”  She said, “No I want you to go ahead and have darsana.”  And I said, “Yes, that is why I am staying here.” I want to have darsana with you.” And one other mataji stayed back.  She said, “ No, you should go.”  I said,
Mother Yamuna, we could sit and chant.” And then a huge smile came on her face. She smiled from ear to ear. She said, “Yes, let’s chant. Let’s sit and chant.”   And then we just sat and we chanted japa. And when she chanted japa, it was such an amazing experience because she would have such a relationship with the holy name.  As the devotees expressed, tears would well up in her eyes, and just run down her face, and then she would just break out into a kirtan. And we would just start chanting a kirtan, and then she would go back into chanting japa.  And she would start singing the japa.

She just had an amazing relationship in relishing the holy name. And so I know I am taking quite a bit of time, but I just wanted to express the wonderful qualities and some of the experiences we have had with her. And encourage all of us, and how she was trying to encourage all of us to take shelter of Bhaktivinode’s prayers and take shelter of the holy name.

Her Grace Yamuna devi ki Jai!

Gaura Shakti das

Funny, I wrote this speech, but then realized  everything I wanted to say about Mother Yamuna has been said.  It is interesting because so many devotees shared in the round robin, I only met her a few times.  (?) my wife and I meeting her.

I have been blessed to grow up in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Thanks to Srila Prabhupada, thanks to my parents. I have been brought up in the association of many devotees and I have experienced so many qualities of different devotees.

I have experienced strength, spiritual strength.  Spiritual knowledge, great wisdom, skills used in different projects for Srila Prabhupada.  But with Mother Yamuna with me, it was, like everyone keeps saying, it was deep love.

I remember when my wife and I visited Saranagati and spent a week there We were going to her house everyday for the morning program.  And the evening programs, the kirtan. She invited all of us, so that was my wife and I, our kids, Kar and Radha. That is who we were staying with, and their whole family. They came over, and she sat us down at her dining table, and she cooked kitcheri and she served us.

And my wife and I were looking at each other and crying, because you know, this was an older Prabhupada disciple, practically a guru, a sanyasi, she is serving us.  So that was an example of her love. And she was passing down-  all I can  say is that the few times I did associate with her in kirtan and discussion – how she would just open up the discussion so that anybody who was there, whether they were eight year old, or twenty five year old, sixteen year old. She would just open up the discussion for the whole audience.

That was the best Bhagavatam classes that I had that way. And so all I can say is that in her presence, in her association, I experienced Srila Prabhupada, I experienced our disciplic succession.  I experienced the continued desire to keep chanting.  A desire to worship Deities.  A desire to continue to associate with devotees.

The last time that we say her, she hugged my wife and I both together. And she said, “You have a special place in my heart.” And it is funny because we thought, “Yeah, we do.”  But then hearing from everybody today, everybody had a special place in her heart.

She just had a way of making you feel special.

So, as so many have said before, I am eternally grateful.

I would like to mention, just like I am grateful to her for connectin me to Srila Prabhupada more deeply, I feel eternally grateful to other vaisnavas  – Kar and Radha for pulling me into her association.  So it is the association of devotees that brings us closer, deeper, deeper circles.

Giriraja Swami

There is so much to be said about Srimati Yamuna-devi dasi.

In October of 1970 I was one of a group of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples from America who were going to join him in India. On the way, we stopped in Brussels, and it was there, in an apartment, that I first met Yamuna-devi—and Malati and Syamasundara (I had met Gurudas before that, in Boston). Upon entering, I could immediately feel their intense, extraordinary devotion to Srila Prabhupada—it was so palpable, so tangible; the room was just suffused with their devotion—and we spent the next several hours there together. As enthusiastic as I was to go to India to be with Srila Prabhupada, I felt like I could stay that room forever; I never wanted to leave the association of these amazing devotees who were so attached to Srila Prabhupada and so capable of serving him in such different ways.

Gurudas had arranged a cheap flight on a small airline, and that evening we boarded an old converted dual-propeller cargo plane, bound for Bombay with a stop in Cairo. In my mood of Krsna consciousness then, I was quite oblivious to things around me. I wanted to avoid maya—anything that could distract me from Krsna—and didn’t pay much heed to anything that didn’t relate directly to my service. I was focused on the idea of chanting and hearing every word of the Hare Krsna mantra distinctly, on always thinking about Krsna and never forgetting Him. And I had heard that Srila Prabhupada had said that if you have trouble hearing you should chant loudly. And sometimes, to really get into the holy names—and to break out of any possible lethargy—I would jump up and down. One or two of the devotees told me that they were anxious about how people in Egypt might react to my chanting, but I was determined.

There was unrest there at that time, and when we landed in Cairo there were blown-up jumbo jets and tanks in and around the airport. We were met on the tarmac by soldiers and armed security guards with bandoliers of bullets around their chests and machine guns over their shoulders, and as we deplaned, walking down the steps, the men were pointing machine guns in our direction. Then Yamuna, as I was later told, saw the guards suddenly move their guns up and down, shifting their aim. And when she turned around to see why, she saw me behind her, walking down the stairs chanting japa, jumping up and down.

Anyway, we escaped Egypt and flew to Bombay, where, as arranged by Srila Prabhupada, we were taken to Kailash Seksaria’s house. There I went through a period of confusion—some things were very difficult for me to understand and cope with—and I wasn’t sure what to do. I was a relatively new devotee, at least compared with the others in the group, and somehow I just got the inspiration to go to Yamuna and Gurudas for help. What they told me was extraordinary, and for me, revolutionary. I entered their room feeling completely at a loss, but they turned the whole thing around, saying that Srila Prabhupada had sent me to engage them in thinking about him and about topics of deep significance. They turned the whole thing completely around, and I believe they were completely genuine in the way they took it and in what they said. And that was the beginning of what proved to be a very close relationship with them both.

While we were staying at Seksaria Bhavan, Srila Prabhupada introduced a new tune for the Gurvastakam prayers in the morning. He tried to teach some of the men, but they couldn’t quite get it. Then he decided to instruct Yamuna-devi, in the presence of us all, and she picked it up right away. Afterward, Srila Prabhupada told Yamuna, “Learn to listen. You cannot follow nicely unless you hear nicely, and you cannot lead nicely unless you have learned to follow nicely.” And gradually the rest of us learned the new melody.

In Bombay, Srila Prabhupada was invited to attend the Vedanta Sammelan in Amritsar, and so a party of seven men and two women—Yamuna and Kausalya—traveled there with him by train. The Vedanta Ashram offered us two small rooms and the use of the large common courtyard just outside. Srila Prabhupada occupied one room, Yamuna and Kausalya the other.

Srila Prabhupada was very protective of the women, and he would have them ride to programs with him in his car (while the men took rickshaws). He did programs in the morning and evening—and often in between. Kausalya told me that while driving to one engagement, he had mentioned that he needed new shoes. “Stop at the next Bata shoe store,” he had said. In the store, he had told Yamuna and Kausalya, “You choose the shoes for me” and sat down. So they looked all around the store and found some white crisscross plastic sandals that they thought would be just right. Each of them carried one shoe up to Srila Prabhupada, and they slipped them on his feet. He smiled and asked, “Do you like them?” They responded, “Yes.” “Then we will buy them.” And so he did.

In the afternoons when there was some free time, Yamuna-devi would chant in the courtyard. It was very cold in Amritsar in November, but it would be a little warmer when the sun came out in the afternoon, and she would sit cross-legged with her back erect and chant Hare Krsna maha-mantra japa continuously with her eyes closed—nonstop. She told me then that when she chanted, her ears and mind and heart opened up to the holy names and that the names would enter and she would just hear the sound. She would be fully absorbed in the sound, not even thinking that she was chanting the holy names or that these were names she was hearing—she was just absorbed in the sound.

After Amritsar, Srila Prabhupada and his party traveled by train back to Bombay. On the way, the train stopped at the New Delhi station, and a gentleman, a lawyer named D. D. Gupta who had been corresponding with Prabhupada and had been informed of his stopover, came to meet him. He requested Srila Prabhupada to leave some disciples in Delhi to start the activities there. Prabhupada turned to Gurudas, who was riding in the same compartment, and said, “This man is inviting us. Get down and see what you can do.” Gurudas asked for some devotees, and then he and Srila Prabhupada agreed on a team: Yamuna-devi, Gopala, Bhakta Bruce (now Bhanu Swami), and me.

Mr. Gupta arranged for us to stay in two rooms in Old Delhi, near Delhi Gate. The rooms were very basic—just plain concrete with whitewash on the walls—and they abutted the courtyard at the center of the building. We would have to walk around the courtyard to use the simple latrine (though, in urgent cases, we would often have to run!).

Mr. Gupta, it turned out, was a peculiar man. He was an advocate, but not a very big one. And he was miserly. He would keep his used, dead batteries in a drawer, in the hopes that they would come back to life. Carefully, he would take them out, show them to us, and ask if we could revive, or “recharge,” them. The whole situation was very austere, but it was wonderful being with Gurudas and Yamuna. We were like a family, with Gurudas and Yamuna like our older brother and sister, taking care of us in the absence of our father, Srila Prabhupada.

After leaving us in Delhi and spending some days in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada proceeded to Indore for the Gita Jayanti Mahotsava, and our small party joined him there. Once, when we entered his room, he looked up from his desk, and Yamuna-devi remarked, “Srila Prabhupada, you look just like a picture I have seen of your guru maharaja looking up from his desk.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, with all humility, “All that glitters is not gold. My guru maharaja was like gold; I am like iron.”

From Indore, Srila Prabhupada and his party traveled to Surat, in Gujarat, where we received an overwhelming reception. In Surat something happened—I actually haven’t thought of it for years. One day I was chanting my rounds on the roof of the house where we all were staying and somehow my mind got fixed on the idea that . . . I had heard that Srila Prabhupada said that if you can deliver just one soul back home, back to Godhead, then your own deliverance is assured. Somehow I thought of my girlfriend from before I joined, and I considered, “Maybe I should have her come and join me, and I will make her a pure devotee, and then I’ll go back to Godhead.” It all made perfect sense to me, but I thought I had better consult Gurudas and Yamuna. I was very serious, and they questioned me, “Why her in particular? There are so many souls that you could deliver back to Godhead—why her?” Indirectly, they pointed out my attachment for her, and they induced me to abandon that strategy.

After Surat, Srila Prabhupada stopped in Bombay, where he met with the few devotees based there. We were all staying at the Sea Palace Hotel, which was pure vegetarian and belonged to Sri Ramchand Chhabria, who knew the devotees from England and was himself vegetarian. While we were there, a new issue of Back to Godhead magazine came, and the first article was Srila Prabhupada’s poem “Markine Bhagavata-dharma,” written when he initially arrived in America, in Boston. We had never seen the poem before; it had never been published. Gurudas, Yamuna, and I got together to look at the magazine, and Yamuna read the poem out loud. It was written in a mood of deep humility and dependence on Krsna. And when she got to the end—“Signed—the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”—she burst into tears. She couldn’t contain herself.

Years later, in September 2002, after celebrating the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America, I wrote Yamuna-devi, “Two days ago I spoke of the time Srila Prabhupada’s poem “Markine Bhagavata-dharma” first appeared in English in BTG and you read it to Gurudas Prabhu and me and at the end you cried.” And she replied, “I sang this prayer this year on Vyasa-puja day, and all the while torrents of tears fell. One of my weaknesses is tears.”

From Bombay, Srila Prabhupada went to Allahabad for the Ardha-kumbha-mela, and Yamuna-devi and I were there with him. Srila Prabhupada spoke on the story of Ajamila and the holy name from the Sixth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Only the first two cantos had yet been translated and published, so Prabhupada read from his Sanskrit Bhagavatam with commentaries, sometimes translating from Sridhara Svami’s and occasionally from Jiva Gosvami’s. While there, I heard that Srila Prabhupada had said that he was speaking for Yamuna. And in April 2007, when Yamuna visited me in Carpinteria, I asked her about it. And she told me something that etched an indelible impression on my heart.

As she explained, she always thought that she had as much right as anyone else to walk or sit close to Srila Prabhupada. And generally when he spoke, she would sit in front of the vyasasana at his feet. She had never really distinguished in terms of etiquette that men should walk closer to Prabhupada, and women further, or that men should sit closer to him, and women further. And the movement had been like that—like a family. In Allahabad, however, one of the sannyasis explained to her that in India the women sat apart and that she should too.

About 10:30 the next morning, after she hadn’t sat at the foot of Prabhupada’s vyasasana as usual, Srila Prabhupada noticed her passing by his tent, and he called, “Yamuna, come in here.” She entered and offered her obeisances, and before she got up he said, “So, you don’t want to hear anymore?” Yamuna burst into tears; Prabhupada—hearing from him—was her life. “Where were you this morning?” he asked. Yamuna told him exactly what had happened. Prabhupada was silent.

That, as she told me, was a turning point in her life, which changed her whole orientation in Krsna consciousness. She suddenly had the realization that she would not always have Prabhupada’s company. Since 1967, when Srila Prabhupada recovered from his stroke, she had never been able to conceive of ever being separated from him. The devotees were so dependent on him for everything, it was inconceivable to them that he would not be with them. But, she told me, every disciple must come to a personal realization that there will be a time when the spiritual master will not be present. And for her that moment came in Allahabad, after her talks with the sannyasi and then with Srila Prabhupada.

Sitting in Prabhupada’s tent, she asked him, “How much time did you actually spend with your guru maharaja?” “Very few occasions,” he said; “maybe five or six. But they were very intimate. We used to walk and talk so many things.” Then he said, “Those who think that association with the spiritual master is physical, they are no better than a mosquito sitting on the lap of a king. And what is the business of a mosquito? Simply to suck blood. So many of my godbrothers, they were big, big sannyasis, and they thought like that, and they simply sucked blood.”

Yamuna took Prabhupada’s words as confirmation. She now understood that she needed to go to another place to explore her relationship with him and her service to him in separation. She began to consider the question of vani (words, instructions) and vapuh (body, form), and she got more and more insight into it. As she told me, it is something “unlimitedly deep and profound. You can hear the terms on the surface, but vani means to again be in Prabhupada’s presence”—to be in his presence in separation as much as when you were in his physical association. “So that was a turning point for me, to realize that Prabhupada was going to leave this planet: ‘He is an old man, and he is going to leave, and I have to prepare.’ ” She took it that from that moment she must start mentally preparing—find a way of continuing in Krsna consciousness that was not based on Srila Prabhupada’s personal association.

“So that is that story of hearing,” she continued. “Prabhupada said, ‘I am speaking because you want to hear so much. I am speaking as much because you want to hear so much.’ So he knew that hunger. I never expressed that to him, but he knew.”As Yamuna often said, Srila Prabhupada was completely aware of every disciple in every way—both their internal consciousness and the external manifestations of their service.

Vani and vapuh became a major theme in Yamuna-devi’s life—how to maintain one’s connection with Srila Prabhupada through vani to the same degree and with the same intensity as in his physical, even close personal, presence. She was convinced that it was possible, and she arranged her life in such a way as to always receive his guidance and mercy—to always be in his association.

Then came the Bombay pandal. Syamasundara Prabhu, who was the temple president, divided the work into different departments, with one devotee in charge of each. (Often, that devotee was the department.) And Yamuna-devi was in charge of the Deities. We had very little money then. Although we were raising funds for the pandal program, we needed it all for the event. And the treasurer, Rsi Kumar, was very tight with the money, which Srila Prabhupada considered a good quality for the treasurer. Sometimes Rsi Kumar would put a sign on his office door: “Closed for three days.” So, Yamuna-devi was charged with raising the funds for the Deities. That was the year we got big marble ones. Those at the pandal were small and made of brass, and on the last day of the program there was to be a procession from the pandal, at Cross Maidan, to Chowpatty, where there was to be a program at the beach, at which Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari would be revealed for the first time to the people of Bombay. And she just couldn’t raise the money.

One day while she was out endeavoring to raise funds for the Deities, Yamuna became so disappointed and distraught that she just sat down on the sidewalk and wept. A black limousine, with a pious, distinguished-looking gentleman in the back seat, stopped on the road before her, and he got out of the car and asked her what was the matter. “We’re having a pandal program,” she explained, “and I’m in charge of the Deities’ outfits and decorations, and I have to raise the money, but no one is giving, and we’re running out of time.” “Don’t worry,” he replied. “I am the chairman of two of the biggest temple trusts in Bombay. How much do you need?” “Two thousand five hundred rupees,” she replied—which was really a lot back then. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Just come with me to my office, and I’ll give you a check for the whole amount.” She was that sincere and dedicated.

Early one morning in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada came into the temple room when the devotees were chanting their japa, and from the vyasasana he observed them—and corrected them. Seeing Yamuna-devi reciting her Gayatri mantra, he asked her if she had completed her rounds. When she said no, he told her, “You should complete your rounds before you do Gayatri.” Because Gayatri is supposed to be recited at dawn, Yamuna-devi took it that Srila Prabhupada was instructing her to finish her rounds before sunrise, and so she began her lifelong practice of rising early, at 2:00 a.m., to chant her rounds.

From Bombay, Srila Prabhupada sent Tamal Krishna Goswami and me to Calcutta to arrange a similar pandal program there, and eventually Yamuna-devi also came, and soon she was engaged in the service of the temple Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. Every morning we would look forward to the darsana (viewing) of the Deities. The worship was so beautiful—so devotional. One day when the curtains opened, a devotee noticed that Krsna’s flute was put in backward, such that the holes where His fingers would play the tune were at His lips and the hole where He would blow into the flute was by His fingers. The devotee pointed out the mistake to Yamuna, but she replied, “Krsna can perform the functions of any part of His body with any other part of His body.” The devotee thought that she was making light of it all and went to Prabhupada and told him what she had done, and Prabhupada replied, “Angani yasya sakalendriya-vrtti-manti: Krsna can perform any bodily function with any part of His body”—the exact same thing.

One day, at the pandal site, I approached Yamuna-devi and told her that I had some questions regarding my future and the future of the movement that I just could not answer but that I didn’t want to approach Srila Prabhupada with them directly. (The whole mood then was, “Don’t disturb Srila Prabhupada. He has to translate. He has important things to do. Don’t go to Srila Prabhupada.”) When I told her my questions, however, she responded, “No, you should go to him. You are just the type of devotee he would want to spend time with, and these are just the types of questions he would want to answer.”

So, based on her advice, I approached Srila Prabhupada in his room at the temple, and my meeting with him was very significant. “Before joining the movement,” I said, “I was interested in making movies, and I even made one. So I was thinking maybe I should make movies about Krsna consciousness.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “That, others are doing. Our main medium is books.”

Then I said, “Srila Prabhupada, now you are here, so everything is all right. But what if, in the course of time, when you are not here, ISKCON falls from the standard? What should I do?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “You are also one of the important members of the Society”—actually, I was really very new at the time, but . . . “You are also one of the important members of the society, so you work for the correction. But don’t leave.”

These instructions have been guiding me ever since. And it was Yamuna-devi who advised me to go and ask Prabhupada directly.

After Calcutta was the Delhi pandal. Again Yamuna-devi arranged beautiful Deity worship, for Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda, who later went to Bhaktivedanta Manor in England. The darsanas were spectacular. But after the program she was very sick—with jaundice. She was staying in the same, large house as Srila Prabhupada, and he noticed that she was missing. Eventually he found her lying on the floor in the corner of a small room—like a closet. When he saw her in that condition, he was concerned and assigned devotees to care for her, explaining in detail what they should do. It was cold, and I think he gave her his own room heater—perhaps the only one. And he said that we have to take care of our devotees when they fall ill.

After the Delhi pandal, I went to Madras, while the rest of the party went to Vrndavana with Srila Prabhupada for the first time. There was one car—an Ambassador—with Srila Prabhupada and some men, and a bus with the rest of the devotees. Prabhupada was in the car, and he noticed Yamuna climbing into the bus. He said, “Wait! Wait!” He called her, knowing that she was very sick, and told the men to get out. Then he had her get in the back seat with Gurudas and one other man—Prabhupada was in the front with the driver—and the other men went on the bus.

In time, Srila Prabhupada got some land in Vrndavana and put Gurudas and Yamuna in charge. And she related a couple of incidents to me that I consider to be very instructive. Once, a small group of devotees went to the Radha-Damodara temple, and the Goswami in charge invited them to have prasada. The devotees sat in the courtyard, and the Goswami arranged the Deities’ maha-prasada for them. While they were honoring the prasada, he began to badly blaspheme Srila Prabhupada—“Why does he wear a ring?” and all sorts of things. The devotees felt extremely uncomfortable and were tempted to just get up and walk out, but somehow they decided not to. After the incident, Gurudas and Yamuna reported to Srila Prabhupada what had happened, and Srila Prabhupada instructed, “In Vrndavana there are five thousand caste goswamis, five thousand shopkeepers, and five thousand widows, and we have to keep good relations with all of them; otherwise we will end up in court like the Gaudiya Matha.”

On another occasion Srila Prabhupada sent Gurudas and Yamuna to meet his godbrother Professor O. B. L. Kapoor. At some stage after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura left, Professor Kapoor had taken shelter of a babaji as a siksa-guru. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had vehemently criticized these babajis, and they had very staunchly opposed him. So this was a very peculiar situation, that Professor Kapoor had taken shelter of a babaji who was the type of person who was the object of his spiritual master’s criticism and in turn opposed his spiritual master. But Srila Prabhupada simply said, “That is his weakness”—that’s all. He didn’t consider that this disqualified Dr. Kapoor from helping the movement, and he knew that Yamuna and Gurudas were strong enough in their attachment for him and his presentation of Krsna consciousness that they would not deviate or be swayed.

After Srila Prabhupada left us, I didn’t see Yamuna or Gurudas for many years. But then somehow my relationship with Yamuna was revived. She had really been sort of a mentor to me, and decades later she was again. Although so many years had passed, when we met again it was more or less the same—the relationship hadn’t changed, and we shared thoughts about Srila Prabhupada and his service and his mission.

I also saw that she was very absorbed in Krsna consciousness. She was very strong in all of the five main processes of devotional service (pancanga-bhakti).

sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana

mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana

“One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura, and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.”

She was very strong in reading and studying. Every morning she would read the Bhagavatam and the teachings of the more recent acaryas—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura—taking special note when they spoke about the holy name. This was a major focus for her, and she would relish reading, especially instructions related to nama-bhajana and to guru-seva.

Another thing about Yamuna-devi struck me as amazing. About the time of the first Bombay pandal, when we were staying in Akash Ganga, a high-rise apartment building in an affluent part of central Bombay, she would stay back and clean. She would clean the whole place, for hours. And while cleaning, she would sing in a very ecstatic mood. The rest of us were going here and there—for service, of course, but there were incidental benefits: seeing exotic India, meeting all sorts of cultured and interesting people, tasting varieties of delicious prasada—and she was staying back and cleaning. She put her heart into it and would be singing in an ecstatic mood.

Years later, I asked her about this, and she said that Srila Prabhupada had put greater emphasis on bhagavata-marga because he wanted his books produced, so they would be there for all time, and because he wanted his books distributed, so the income from the sales would support the expansion of the mission. So he didn’t have much time to personally train disciples in pancaratrika-vidhi. But he did train her, and she considered personal service to him to be in the same category as personal service to the Deity. And of course, she is right. Once, a devotee came forward to fan Srila Prabhupada and Srila Prabhupada stopped him, saying that he wasn’t a brahmana. So, cleanliness is one of the basic principles of Deity worship. But Yamuna-devi didn’t distinguish between cleaning the guru’s ashram and cleaning the Deity room. As she told me, “In Bombay, I learned to take joy in that cleaning. Whether you are serving the spiritual master or the arca-vigraha, the cleaning is external and internal. It is a very spiritual engagement—as powerful as distributing books.”

She explained that Srila Prabhupada would teach each servant about the importance and standards of cleanliness according to the servant’s capacity to understand. And she told me how strictly he had trained her. He had his four-tiered cooker, and if he found a black spot on the bottom of any of the pots, he would really chastise the servant. She would use the word “whipping.” He would chide the servant, “This is not Vaisnava. This is Muslim. [laughter] No Vaisnava will ever leave a black spot on any of the pots in the kitchen.” Prabhupada’s cooker was always to shine like gold.

Based on Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, Yamuna developed a whole system for cleaning his quarters in Vrndavana—an elaborate five-step procedure, going from bottom to top and top to bottom. First, she would get the big dirt off the bottom, then she would go up as far as she could reach, dusting, and then she would go back to the bottom, cleaning everything as perfectly as she could. If there was anything wrong, Prabhupada would notice and tell her about it. And keeping the rooms clean in Vrndavana was very hard: with the simmering sands of Ramana-reti and the whole place being a construction zone, there was always dirt and corrosion—everywhere. The walls of Prabhupada’s rooms were pale yellow, and the floors were black stone. The floors were covered with rugs, and the rugs were covered with white sheets.

One morning when Srila Prabhupada came back from his walk, after Yamuna had gone through her five-step procedure and everything looked as clean as could be, he told her, “Please clean my room, Yamuna. Haven’t I taught you to clean?” “No, Srila Prabhupada,” she said. “How may I improve my cleaning?” He didn’t say anything. On his desk were a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, his eyeglass case, his tilaka, pens, a flower vase, and a staple gun. Srila Prabhupada took the staple gun, which was about two and a half inches long, removed it from its plastic case, lifted up the metal staple holder, and ran his little finger, his pinkie, across the thin metal strip between the staple holder and the hinge. . . .  Dust. Dust. “When will you learn how to clean?”

If Srila Prabhupada had had the time, Yamuna-devi told me, he would have trained all his disciples in both pancaratriki-vidhi and bhagavata-vidhi, but because he was focused more on bhagavata-vidhi, he mainly trained only his close managers and personal servants, be they men or women, in both. Srila Prabhupada knew the consciousness of his disciples—he knew their capacity—and he would train them according to their capacity to absorb it.

Cooking, like cleanliness, is also part of Deity worship, and Yamuna-devi was, of course, most expert. Once, when Srila Prabhupada was coming to Vrndavana, she went to the Vraja-vasis and asked, “What is the best way to make Vraja-vasi rotis?” They told her, “You have to get this red Punjabi wheat berry. You have to grind it in the morning, and then you have to cook it with nima wood.”

When Prabhupada came she didn’t say a word to him, but she got that red wheat berry from Punjab, she had it ground in the morning, and she cooked the chapatis with nima wood. Then she brought the plate in to Prabhupada and put the hot chapati on his plate. He took one bite and said, “This is the red Punjabi wheat berry. You ground it this morning and cooked it with nima wood.” She hadn’t said a word to him—he just knew.

That was at the Radha-Damodara temple in 1972. And there is a sequel to the story about the Vraja-vasi chapatis, from Ramana-reti in 1973. I am not a cook—chapatis are too technical for me—so I will read the transcription of Yamuna’s account to me in Carpinteria:

“One time when Srila Prabhupada came—I think it was the first time I met Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami; he was Prabhupada’s servant—I was on a bucket stove again, on the floor—no kitchen. I was making Prabhupada’s prasada, and as you may or may not know, when you cook with a bucket stove and you have a little bit of hard coal and then a little bit of soft coal and then a little bit of cow dung, it is a little hard to regulate. There is a certain temperature, and you cannot turn a switch to make it higher or lower. And then, depending on the thickness of the pot, you know what intensity you want. And then there is what you call a thawa, which is an iron griddle, concave, and to make a chapati you keep that on the stove and then you lift it off and you put the chapati on top of the flame. So, I made chapatis for Prabhupada’s lunch.

“Satsvarupa Maharaja wanted to bring in the lunch, thinking that I probably shouldn’t do it. He brought in the plate, came back into the kitchen, and said, ‘Prabhupada wants me to teach you how to make chapatis.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Maharaja, I would be so grateful if you could do that. I’d love to learn to make chapatis. Please.’

“Then I got up, and he began to wash his hands. By the time he sat down and rolled out a chapati, the thawa was really hot. He rolled out an octopus-like chapati. Now, when you roll out a chapati, the ball bearings for rolling it out is the dusting of flour, and if you roll the chapati in too much flour you actually roll flour into the surface of the flatbread and then even if you try to flap it off, you still have a crust of flour. So you use a minimal amount for the ball bearings and then flap off the little extra.

“His octopus was covered with flour on a hot thawa. When he put it on, I said, ‘Maharaja, what should I be looking for?’ [laughter] He said, ‘You wait until there are pimples on the top.’ As soon as the chapati hit the griddle, very hot, the pimples came very fast. He turned the chapati over, and there were little burnt holes. [laughter] So there was no question of it puffing up.

“So, he put it on, and the little bubbles appeared at different places, and he took it in to Prabhupada. Then he came back and told me, ‘Prabhupada said, “This is excellent.’ ” [laughter]

Yamuna concludes, “So that’s how Prabhupada taught me. It was never with a whip, but they were beatings nonetheless. They were beatings over my head.”

Another time, in 1974, one of the devotees based in Vrndavana approached Yamuna and said, “My wife is coming, and she is a very good cook. She wants to cook for Prabhupada.” Yamuna replied, “How wonderful. I will be glad to engage her in Prabhupada’s service.” The new cook arrived after the big Mayapur festival, when almost all the devotees became very ill with dysentery and other maladies. There was really no proper arrangement for them, but Gurudas and Yamuna cared for them like parents. Yamuna was doing the cooking for the devotees there at Fogel Ashram. Under the circumstances, she really didn’t have time to cook for Srila Prabhupada, so she was very happy that the new cook was there. Meanwhile, Yamuna was trying to make arrangements for the devotees’ prasada. She had no facility, she was unable to speak Hindi and communicate with the locals, and the assistant cooks were ready to walk out at any time. She was working practically twenty-four hours. And she didn’t go to see Prabhupada the entire time.

She began to get messages: “Prabhupada wants you”—but she didn’t go. She just replied, “Tell him I am really busy.” She told me later, “Bad, very bad—really low consciousness.”

When finally she came to Prabhupada’s room, he was about to go out. So she came back the next morning.

Yamuna had given the new cook specific instructions. Still, the lady had taken Srila Prabhupada’s cooker and his unclean laundry and stuffed them in a bolster pillowcase meant for his seating area, now black all over the bottom. Yamuna arrived just as the lady was putting the cooker in with the clothes, in the pillowcase. Srila Prabhupada was also standing there, watching the cooker being shoved into the pillowcase. He didn’t say a word—not to the cook, not to Yamuna.

“Prabhupada knows everything,” Yamuna told me later. Thus he said to her, “Are you too busy to come? So I am delaying my departure for one day.” The men said, “But the cars are ready. We’re just loading them.” “No, Yamuna will stay here and cook for me tomorrow,” Srila Prabhupada stated unequivocally. “I am staying, and she is going to cook for me tomorrow morning, and then we will go.”

Cleanliness. More than thirty years later Yamuna-devi told me,“I can honestly say that I joyously engage in cleaning, and so in our ashram [in Saranagati, Canada] we sing and clean, sometimes for hours and hours and hours. Our place is very primitive; we have a dirt floor and walls, and a lot of earth outside. It is very simple, but we like to clean a lot. We enjoy cleaning, for Srila Prabhupada and the Deities.”

Kirtana. Yamuna-devi had a dream. I don’t remember the details, and it is a little delicate, because she was a very private person. Anyway, in this dream, or vision—whatever it was, she took it as very real—she was a sage in the forest and Srila Prabhupada was also in the same forest, and somehow he engaged her in doing kirtana. She felt that from her past life there was a connection with Srila Prabhupada in relation to kirtana.

About Srila Prabhupada’s kirtana she said, “Srila Prabhupada’s kirtana had no tinge of being a performance. It was purely for the pleasure of Krsna. It allowed the chanters access to the fact that the Lord’s holy name and the Lord are nondifferent. He said that the key to engaging in kirtana without anartha was hearing and studying our literature, and that gradually it would rise to the platform of pure devotional service.

And in an e-mail to Bhakta Carl, she wrote, “Leading and chanting in kirtana has little to do with how we sound to each other. It has much more to do with how we call out to Krsna and immerse ourselves in hearing the vibrations of the holy names. What a vehicle for experiencing love of Godhead.”

When she and the other devotees were recording with the Beatles, George Harrison was so impressed by her singing that he told her he could make her one of the most famous and celebrated vocalists in the world. But she wasn’t interested. Her singing was meant for another purpose—pure devotional service to please Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.

Yamuna-devi said that to the degree one follows Srila Prabhupada, to that degree things are revealed. And she gave the example of Bhakti Tirtha Swami. She felt that because of his deep connection with the holy name—his dedication to japa, his private time with japa—he was able to perceive Srila Prabhupada’s presence in separation. She said, “Prabhupada freely gave everything to all of us. But it is the individual’s hankering, which leads him to make certain decisions in his life to catch that mercy, that facilitates his or her perception of Srila Prabhupada, especially in separation.”

Yamuna recalled an incident that demonstrated to her unequivocally how Prabhupada knew his disciples. She came to the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple in the wee hours of the morning, remaining as silent as humanly possible, so as not to disturb Srila Prabhupada, and he came out of his room and called her name. “There was no way Prabhupada could have known that I was there at one thirty in the morning,” she said. “I didn’t make any noise.”

But then she balanced her statement: “On the other hand, there were many times when he would say, ‘I want your report. Otherwise how do I know?’” And she added, “There were times when I did it, but other times, because of low Krsna consciousness, I ceased reporting in an honest way, and it contributed to my fall, to my weaknesses in Krsna consciousness. When I was open and revealed everything honestly in my reporting to Prabhupada, as we are supposed to report to Krsna, I was stronger in Krsna consciousness. And when I closed that avenue off, my consciousness suffered.”

In her profound humility, she explained, “Srila Prabhupada’s presence in vani and vapuh, or our ability to perceive his presence in his vani and vapuh, depends on our consciousness–whether we are able to perceive a drop of who Prabhupada was. Some devotees who never had Srila Prabhupada’s company, with their laulyam and their greed for it had more of it than I sometimes did while I was in his company, depending on my consciousness. . . .

“I still have no idea of the greatness of Prabhupada’s presence, then or now, although I think about it a lot, meditate on it a lot. We discuss it almost every day. It comes up in some form or other in our morning Bhagavatam class. . . . Prabhupada’s presence then and now—vani and vapuh. And it is very important to hold onto his presence as the focal point in our maturation in spiritual life, because he is the center in our spiritual life. Nothing comes without his presence. Even if the mercy comes to us through other forms, from endless different places—still, he is the fountainhead. . . . If I am qualified, then certain mercies will come to me. Mercy is not something you bargain for or arrange for or even desire for very deeply. You can have intense hankering, and then whatever comes—whatever form the mercy comes in—it is so Krsna conscious.”

Inevitably, we come toward the end of Yamuna-devi’s stay with us. I shall read something.

After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day in 2009, Yamuna-devi wrote me a letter that shows her deep absorption in Srila Prabhupada and in the holy names, and her intimate relationship with Srila Prabhupada. I think that she really did understand Srila Prabhupada and his mission. He gave her a lot of instruction.

“Dear Giriraj Swami, Pranama dandavatsJaya Srila Prabhupada! I wanted to share a few thoughts and reflections on yesterday, Srila Prabhupada’s thirty-second disappearance day. We observed the day first at Radha-Banabehari Mandira with our morning program at Radha-Banabehari Mandira, then at a midday program at Govardhana Academy [the school at Saranagati], introducing the students to the traditional way Srila Prabhupada instructed us to honor this day, and then in the evening at a program with adults in the community, who for convenience regularly meet in the evening for any kind of Vaisnava holy day.

“Last night Yadubara showed his preliminary edited footage for DVD Eleven: ‘Srila Prabhupada’s Final Pastimes.’ Though I had seen much of the footage before, it had been without comment, and not arranged in sequence to tell a visual story of Srila Prabhupada’s final days and hours, the moment of his passing, and the aftermath—the Vrndavana parikrama and the samadhi entombment.

“One evening, [as I was] sitting with my back to Srila Prabhupada’s front bucket seat, riding in a van from Tittenhurst [John Lennon’s estate] to a Conway Hall lecture in London, Srila Prabhupada said loud enough for me to hear, ‘When I die, see that my body is taken on a palanquin around Vrndavana on parikrama.’ Stunned, but immediately attentive to these words, I turned around, and on my knees, bent forward from the waist so that my head was even with his shoulder, I said, ‘Why have you told me to do this, Srila Prabhupada? Better that you tell Tamal Krishna. He has more access to seeing that this is done than I do.’ He replied, ‘No, you can tell him.’ He fell silent and said no more. I too fell silent and said no more.

“Yadubara’s footage last night of the thickest pastime of Srila Prabhupada’s life with us—his passing—was poignant and moving. Though I was not there physically with Srila Prabhupada, I could not have felt closer to him or experienced more of his presence had I been so. Every moment of every day has been a meditation on Srila Prabhupada, and we have been engaged in constant kirtana. Perhaps it would have been difficult for me even to have been there at that time, for except Pisima, it is clear that women were not allowed close proximity to Srila Prabhupada, and that might have been almost unbearable for me after the closeness I experienced in previous years with him.”

She writes more, expressing appreciation for the devotional mood and service of some of Prabhupada’s disciples who were there—they had “a shared intent to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, glorify his mood, honor his example, and share that with others.” But her letter also expressed her concern about how at a certain point the role of women in the movement had changed. In earlier days . . . of course, she was exceptional—she would lead kirtana before thousands of people, speak before thousands of people, and render personal service to Srila Prabhupada. As she told me, at Tittenhurst she was basically Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant—she and Malati and Janaki. Purusottama would do some of the correspondence, and some of the men would give massage, but basically these ladies were doing the personal service.

She said that one day Prabhupada came into his room—they had just made his bed and done whatever else had to be done in the room—and said, “This is very unusual,” meaning for a sannyasi to have women do that service. He said, “This is very unusual, but it is appropriate.” He continued, “Sometimes I am like your father and you are like my daughters, and sometimes you are like my mothers and I am like your son.”

In 1975, Gurudas’s life went in a different direction, and Srila Prabhupada wrote Yamuna, “It is good that you are now living separate from him. Wherever you live, you can follow the regulative principles and my instructions along with chanting. That will make you happy. Do not deviate from the path I have chalked out for every one of you.”

Yamuna-devi soon left India, but she thought that Srila Prabhupada would ask her to return to her husband, despite his deviation—and she was prepared to do whatever he asked. In her first meeting with Srila Prabhupada after she left India, in Los Angeles in 1975, she approached him with her friend Dinatarini, with whom she had teamed up. They went to his room apprehensively but ready to follow any instruction he gave them, however difficult, lest they lose his mercy. For a long time, Srila Prabhupada carefully looked from Yamuna to Dinatarini and back to Yamuna, back and forth, back and forth, and then he said simply, “You should stay together for the rest of your lives and serve Krsna.” And Srila Prabhupada reaffirmed the arrangement in the years that followed and thus protected them—two like-minded souls on the path back to Godhead, back to Krsna, together.

Yamuna-devi proved to be steadfast in her dedication and adherence to Srila Prabhupada and his instructions. In the years that followed, she wrote her award-winning comprehensive cookbook, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, which is filled with instructions and anecdotes from her time with Srila Prabhupada in India.

Eventually, she and Dinatarini settled in ISKCON’s Canadian rural community Saranagati, several hours’ drive from Vancouver, where they led a life of simplicity and devotion. And even there, in her remote, basic ashram, Yamuna-devi touched so many hearts in a deep and lasting way—including the youth, for whom she had special concern. She wanted them, the future generation of devotees, to embrace Krsna consciousness with the same urgency and strict adherence—and joy—that Srila Prabhupada inspired in his early followers. And those whom she touched in turn also touched others. The effects of her powerful positive influence cannot be calculated. For forty-five years she lived simply, taking what Prabhupada had given her, assimilating it into her life, living it with grace and dignity, and giving it with love and compassion to others.

In the last years, Yamuna-devi was especially concerned about Srila Prabhupada’s mission, that his legacy be preserved as it is and not adulterated or compromised. In our many discussions on the topic, she expressed appreciation for these direct instructions from Srila Prabhupada, his guru maharaja, and Srimad-Bhagavatam:

“I don’t read the book, I read the author. I first check whether the author is authentic. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura trained me in proofreading, so I always look for what is right or wrong. But I am not a proofreader of the press only; I am a proofreader of the world. I proofread men; I proofread religions. I dissect their faults and try to correct them.” (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in the Gaudiya magazine)

“The fact is that I am the only one in India who is openly criticizing, not only impersonalism and demigod worship, but everything that falls short of complete surrender to Krsna. My guru maharaja never compromised in his preaching, nor will I, nor should any of my students. We are firmly convinced that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that all others are His part and parcel servants. This we must declare boldly to the whole world, that they should not foolishly dream of world peace unless they are prepared to surrender fully to Krsna as Supreme Lord.” (Srila Prabhupada, in a letter to me)

“If one is serious about going back home, back to Godhead, he must consider the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the summum bonum and chief aim of life. If he is a father instructing his sons, a spiritual master instructing his disciples, or a king instructing his citizens, he must instruct them as I have advised. Without being angry, he should continue giving instructions, even if his disciple, son, or citizen is sometimes unable to follow his order. Ignorant people who engage in pious and impious activities should be engaged in devotional service by all means. They should always avoid fruitive activity.

If one puts into the bondage of karmic activity his disciple, son, or citizen who is bereft of transcendental vision, how will one profit? It is like leading a blind man to a dark well and causing him to fall in.” (Lord Rsabhadeva, in Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.15)

In the last year there was tremendous concern about Yamuna-devi’s health. At different stages she spoke to me about her condition and options, but then very much towards the end, perhaps in September, she came to a very critical point in regard to her heart. Because of her size and age, the doctors were afraid to perform an invasive procedure, yet if they didn’t, there was every chance she would have heart failure, at any time. For a while she wasn’t sure what to do, but in the end she decided to just return to her home and depend on Krsna.

She said a few times that she was ready to go, that she felt she had done what she was meant to do in this life, or what she could do, and she was ready to go. She had no fear, and no regrets. Personally, I questioned her conclusion about her service, and I suggested, “Well, you may have something left to do in terms of service to Srila Prabhupada.” I was thinking of her writing, that she should write about her experiences with and realizations about Srila Prabhupada. But she said, “No, I have thought about it, and there’s nothing really that I have to stay to do. If there is anything—if I am given more time—it is to try to help the women in the movement.” And she added, “I don’t think that you, as a sannyasi, can understand what the women in the movement experience. But if Krsna does give me some more time, I would like to do something for the women, to support the women, to give a strong voice to the women.”

No matter how dire her physical condition was, she was so Krsna conscious. My conversations with her were quite frequent after she went to Bhaktivedanta Hospital. Naturally, I was concerned about her medical condition, and so we would be talking about it, and somehow or other, without my knowing how she got there, she would be talking about Krsna and Srila Prabhupada and the holy name and how wonderful devotees are and how merciful Prabhupada and Krsna are and how grateful she is. Quite the opposite of what I often experience with myself: I begin talking about Krsna and then—I don’t know how it happens—somehow I’m talking about my body. With her, I would bring up her body—how she was doing and if I could help in any way—and without my knowing how, suddenly we were talking about Krsna and Prabhupada and the holy name and the prayers of the acaryas and the wonderful service of the other devotees and just how grateful she was for what she had been given.

At about 6:30 in the morning on December 20, Yamuna’s constant companion and spiritual confidante, Dinatarini dasi, found that Yamuna had left. Her hand was in her bead bag, and a slight smile was on her face. She looked completely at peace—even blissful. She had been unafraid of death. She had been confident that she would again be with Prabhupada, or somehow engaged in serving his mission. Such is the destination that awaits anyone who gives his or her life fully to serving Srila Prabhupada, his vani, his vapuh.

Yamuna-devi was a beautiful soul, a divine servant of Srila Prabhupada, his mission, and his Lords. She exemplified nama-ruci (taste for the holy name), jiva-daya (mercy for the living entities), and vaisnava-seva (service to the devotees). She was a mentor, guide, and friend to many, including me. We will miss her personal presence. Still, we shall try to serve her in separation by upholding the ideals she held dear.

In conclusion, I quote from a letter she wrote me some years ago, which has given me some solace and guidance at this time:

“I remember when Dina and I visited you in your house in Vrndavana. We asked you one question, and you took three hours to answer it: ‘How has your relationship with Srila Prabhupada changed since his departure?’” Again, vani and vapuh. She continued, “The departure of loved ones helps us to change, to go deeper. Surely this will happen.”

Srimati Yamuna-devi dasi ki jaya!

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Gaura-bhakta-vrnda ki jaya!

At November 2013 Vrindavan Memorial

Giriraja Swami:  It is wonderful to see so many devotees gathered.  To remember, and glorify Yamuna Devi.  Some devotees I haven’t seen for a while.  I first met Yamuna Devi in Brussells.  When Srila Prabhupada wanted to begin the activities in India.  He had some devotees from America and England come.  Syamsundara and Malati, Gurudas and Yamuna in Brussels was where we joined together.

When we arrived from New York we were brought to an apartment where they were staying until we got the flight. When I walked in the room I was just hit by the thick spiritual presence of Srila Prabhupada.  I had never experienced anything like that. I would have been happy to just stay with them in that apartment.

From there we caught our flight. It stopped in Cairo. And she told me something later, that I hadn’t realized at the time. The incident itself is somewhat unclear, but it shows, I take it as an example as throughout my devotional career she helped me to see myself more as I was.  So the aircraft landed in Cairo, and the President of Eygypt had just died, and there was a lot of unrest, and the whole airport was being patrolled and controlled by military people with automatic weapons.  And I was trying to chant, and to help myself focus I would jump up and down. And she was standing behind me.  I didn’t notice it myself. But she was seeing, that as I was jumping up and down, all these military were training their automatic weapons, up and down, up and down. They didn’t know what was happening.

Nanda Kumara Prabhu was part of our group. So anyway he thought, “I better get away from this scene.  I don’t know what is going to happen.” And then sometime later he came back and he saw that we were all dancing in a circle and chanting Hare Krsna, including some of the Egyptian warriors.

So we came to India, and quite early, I would sort of take her advice, and she helped in that way.  I will skip ahead to one incident that turned out to be quite significant. So we travelled around India, and eventually Srila Prabhupada sent Tamal Krsna and me to Calcutta to put on the first pandal there.  And during the pandal program, I had some questions on my mind, and I didn’t know how to get the answers.  And I would always try to get the answers without disturbing Srila Prabhupada, and if I felt no one else could give, if I couldn’t get the answer any other way, I thought I might get it from Yamuna Devi.


So I approached her at the pandal and I told her what the questions were and I thought maybe she would give me the answer.  But she said, “No, these are the types of questions that you have to ask Srila Prabhupada, and you are the type of person he would want to answer.”  So one of the questions was, I said to Srila Prabhupada,  “Now you are here, and everything is alright.  But what if, in the future, when you are not here, Iskcon falls from the standard.  What should I do?”  And Srila Prabhupada replied, “You are also one of the important members of the Society.”(Which I don’t think is really true.) “So you work for the correction, but don’t leave.”  And that later turned out to be a very important instruction. She was the one who gave me the advice to approach Srila Prabhupada.

So now, I would say, depending on her mercy, I know that I am not qualified in any way, but from before she left, I somehow had that conviction that she could take me to Srila Prabhupada.  And I still have that conviction. And so, I just want to try to serve her and please her.  She was really so interested in every aspect of Srila Prabhupada’s mission that it is really hard to separate her concerns from any aspect of Iskcon.

But she did speak often about the youth, her concern for the youth, that they take the process of Krsna Consciousness and the mission, with the same sense of urgency that we had.  She was concerned about the women.  In one of my last conversations with her, towards the end.  She said, “You as a sanyasi, cannot understand what the women in Iskcon experience.” Because she was saying that she was ready to go, and I didn’t like that. I was saying, “We need you, the movement needs you.” She said, “No, whatever I had to do I have already done.” But then she did say, “That if Krsna does allow me to stay longer, the one thing that I would like to do is to give some voice to the women in Iskcon.” And then she said, “I don’t think that you, as a sanyasi, can understand what a woman in this movement experiences.”

So after she left I made a pilgrimage to her asrama in Melbourne Beach, Florida.  Where Dinatarini  Mataji and her team were compiling the Yamuna Devi legacy project. Which is so important. So important.  And there is already a website, I hope that you are aware of it.  I have visited it.  It is so well done.  Just like Yamuna Devi. So tasteful. So artistic. So pure. So Krsna conscious.  So meticulous.  So thorough.  And you can click on different topics, and it will just take you into her statements on the subject.  Sometimes with audio clicks, you can hear her voice with images.  It is a total experience.

And eventually there will be her book.  And she was working on it herself for quite some time.  And whenever Dinatarini would ask to see it, she would say that there was really nothing to see here.  And at one stage Yamuna Devi said to her, “You know, if I don’t finish this, I want you to finish it.”  And at the time Dinatarini thought, “Of course she is going to finish it.” So thinking that it would never happen, she said, “Yes, if it comes to be, I will.” And it did come to be.

At first I was extremely disappointed, that was one of the other things why we wanted her to stay longer. But afterwards I could see that perhaps it was a divine plan.  Because later when I spoke with Dinatarini, she said, “You know, reading through Yamuna Devi’s memoirs was very revealing.  Because everything was there, except one thing. Yamuna Devi.  She had written herself out of the whole story.”  And then I realized that Dinatarini and the others working on the project had to put her in the story.  But she didn’t want it to be just, “My memories of Prabhupada. Or my experiences with Prabhupada.”  She wanted it to have a theme, and the theme was, how by following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions one could achieve all success and perfection.  So it is not meant to be a history of the life of Yamuna Devi or even a history of events of Iskcon.  But it is really meant to show one person’s journey from receiving the seed of devotional service to the ultimate goal.  And that will be an example for us.  And there were many challenges along the way.  There were some pretty dark periods in a way, in Iskcon’s history in certain places.  And to tell it just as a history could be a little bleak.  But that wasn’t the idea.  The idea was to trace how Yamuna Devi dealt with different situations along the way, and ultimately made the best of it.  And grew from it.

So that will be a tremendous contribution.  Dinatarini Mataji has finished, at least the first draft.  And I can hardly wait until it comes out.  So although she is gone, in the physical sense, she does remain in her legacy.  Different devotees have spoken just little bits about it.  When I was thinking, what I could say.  How can you summarize the encyclopedia in fifteen minutes. Her life is like an encyclopedia of good qualities.  An encyclopedia of devotional service.  An encyclopedia of how to love and serve and encourage and enlighten.  So I can just hardly wait until her legacy project is available and I really encourage everyone to read it.  It is not even something to read.  It is something to enter into. And try to imbibe her mood of urgency in devotional service.

Just on that Govinda Prayers.  George Harrison was so struck by her singing, he told her “I can make you one of the most famous female vocalists in the world.  If you work with me.”  And she was not at all interested.  Her life, her voice, her heart, her soul, everything was just for Srila Prabhupada.  But she was of that caliber.  She could have been at the top in the material world in many respects.  And her cookbook is really a classic.  It is at the top.  But she didn’t do anything for herself.  It was all for Prabhupada and Krsna and the devotees.  And that is so re-assuring, that whatever you offer to her, even now, she won’t use it for herself.  She’ll just pass it on in service to Srila Prabhupada and the parampara. And that includes our hearts.  We give our heart to her, she won’t do anything with it, except – maybe massage it and fill it with love and then pass it on to Srila Prabhupada and the parampara.  We do miss her.  I miss her personal association.  But I also do feel her presence, and I couldn’t help but think that she probably would have been mortified at the thought that all these people were gathering around and glorifying her.  She probably would have been looking for some hole in the ground to escape into. But it is the nature of a devotee to want to glorify guru and Krsna and not want anything for herself.  But it is also the nature of Krsna that He wants His devotee to be glorified.  And that is what is happening.  That is what is happening.  I really feel blessed to be here on this occasion.  I had intended to be here when the ashes were immersed and her Samadhi was dedicated, but I couldn’t.  But I am so glad that I am here now with all of you special souls who are dear to her, whether you met her or not.  I pray to be in your association, until she takes us to our next destination.  Hare Krsna.

For Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja 2014

Srila Prabhupada—Vani and Vapuh
My dear devotees,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet. All glories to our beloved eternal spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

After Srila Prabhupada left us on November 14, 1977, I came across a section in Srimad-Bhagavatam—Canto 4, Chapter 28—in which he explicitly discusses the disappearance of the spiritual master and how the disciple is to serve him—even in separation. The following paragraph summarizes the essence of his instructions:

“[T]he disciple and spiritual master are never separated, because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.47, purport)

This instruction—“As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master”—seems simple enough, but like almost all of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, to follow it properly requires deep faith, surrender, and realization.

For example, we may want to render personal service to the spiritual master, but we may also be afraid—that we might disappoint him, that we might fail, that he might chastise us, even that he might reject us or banish us. Thus disciples may shy away from direct, personal service. We must have faith that whatever the spiritual master does will be beneficial for us, purifying and edifying for us, whether or not it is pleasing to our mind and senses.

I sometimes experienced chastisement by Srila Prabhupada, and sometimes my mind and senses revolted, but he would pacify me with his clear explanations, such as in this letter to me:

“[I]t is the duty of the spiritual master to find fault with his students so that they may make progress, not that he should always be praising them. So if you find some criticism, kindly accept it in that spirit. I am only interested in that you, along with all my other students, should become Krsna conscious.” (May 24, 1972)

One person who exhibited an extraordinarily high standard of service to Srila Prabhupada, to both his vapuh and vani forms, was our godsister Yamuna-devi Dasi.
Two of Yamuna-devi’s main direct, personal services to Srila Prabhupada were cooking and cleaning. She was extremely expert in both, and yet when she received correction from Srila Prabhupada she accepted and followed it wholeheartedly.
Vapuh: Cleaning

Around the time of the first Bombay pandal, when we were staying in Akash Ganga, a high-rise apartment building in an affluent part of central Bombay, Yamuna-devi would stay back and clean. She would clean the whole place, for hours. And while cleaning, she would sing in a very ecstatic mood. She put her whole heart into it.
Later, in April 2007, when she visited me in my ashram in Carpinteria, California, I asked her about this, and she said that Srila Prabhupada had put greater emphasis on bhagavata-marga because he wanted his books produced, so they would be there for all time, and because he wanted his books distributed, so the income from the sales would support the expansion of the mission. Thus he didn’t have much time to personally train disciples in pancaratriki-vidhi. But he did train her. She explained that Srila Prabhupada would teach each servant about the importance and standards of cleanliness according to the servant’s capacity to understand. And he had trained her very strictly. For example, she often had to clean his four-tiered cooker, and if he found a black spot on the bottom of any of the sections, he would really chastise her, or whoever had done the cleaning: “This is not Vaisnava. This is Muslim. No Vaisnava will ever leave a black spot on any of the pots in the kitchen.” Prabhupada’s cooker was always to shine like gold.

Based on Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, Yamuna developed a system for cleaning his quarters in Vrndavana—an elaborate five-step procedure in which she would go from bottom to top and top to bottom. First she would get the big dirt off the floor, then she would work her way up the walls as far as she could reach, dusting, and then she would go back to the bottom, cleaning everything as perfectly as she could. If there was anything wrong, Prabhupada would notice and tell her about it. And keeping the rooms in Vrndavana clean was very hard: With the drifting sands of Ramana-reti and the whole place being a construction zone, there was always dirt and corrosion everywhere.

One morning when Srila Prabhupada came back from his walk after Yamuna had gone through her five-step procedure and everything looked as clean as could be, he told her, “Please clean my room, Yamuna. Haven’t I taught you to clean?”

“No, Srila Prabhupada,” she replied, meaning that she hadn’t yet learned. “How may I improve my cleaning?”

He didn’t say anything. On his desk were a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, his eyeglass case, his tilaka, pens, a flower vase, and a stapler. Srila Prabhupada took the stapler, which was about two and a half inches long, removed it from its plastic case, lifted up the metal staple holder, and ran his pinkie across the thin metal strip between the staple holder and the hinge, and . . . dust. “When will you learn how to clean?” he asked.

If Srila Prabhupada had had the time, Yamuna told me, he would have trained all his disciples in both pancaratriki-vidhi and bhagavata-vidhi, but because he was focused more on bhagavata-vidhi he mainly trained only his close managers and personal servants, be they men or women, in both. Srila Prabhupada knew the consciousness of his disciples—their capacity to absorb his instruction—and he would train them accordingly.

Yamuna-devi absorbed his training enthusiastically. More than thirty years later she told me, “I can honestly say that I engage in cleaning joyously. In our ashram [in Saranagati, Canada] we sometimes sing and clean for hours and hours. Our place is very primitive—we have a dirt floor and walls—but we like to clean a lot. We enjoy cleaning for Srila Prabhupada and the Deities.”
Vapuh: Cooking

Cooking, like cleanliness, is also part of Deity worship, and Yamuna-devi was most expert. Once when Srila Prabhupada was coming to Vrndavana she went to some Vraja-vasis and asked, “What is the best way to make Vraja-vasi rotis?” They told her, “You have to get red Punjabi wheat berries. You have to grind them in the morning, and then you have to cook the rotis with neem wood.”

When Prabhupada came she didn’t say a word to him, but she got red Punjabi wheat berries, had them ground in the morning, and then cooked the rotis with neem wood. When she went in to serve Srila Prabhupada and put a hot roti on his plate, he took one bite and said, “This is from red Punjabi wheat berries. You ground them this morning and cooked the rotis with neem wood.” She hadn’t said a word to him—he just knew. And even then, he had a suggestion for improvement. “Just one thing,” he said. “If you cook them one or two seconds more, they will be perfect.”

That was at the Radha-Damodara temple in 1972. Yamuna also recounted a sequel, from Ramana-reti in 1973:

“One time when Srila Prabhupada came—I think it was the first time I met Satsvarupa dasa Goswami; he was Prabhupada’s servant—I was on a bucket stove again, on the floor—no kitchen. I was making Prabhupada’s prasada, and as you may or may not know, when you cook with a bucket stove and you have a little bit of hard coal and then a little bit of soft coal and then a little bit of cow dung, it is a little hard to regulate. There is a certain temperature, and you cannot turn a switch to make it higher or lower. And then, depending on the thickness of the pot, you know what intensity you want. And then there is what you call a thawa, which is an iron griddle, concave, and to make a chapati you keep that on the stove and then you lift it off and you put the chapati on top of the flame. So, I made chapatis for Prabhupada’s lunch.

“Satsvarupa Maharaja wanted to bring in the lunch, thinking that I probably shouldn’t do it. He brought in the plate, came back into the kitchen, and said, ‘Prabhupada wants me to teach you how to make chapatis.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Maharaja, I would be so grateful if you could do that. I’d love to learn to make chapatis. Please.’

“Then I got up, and he began to wash his hands. By the time he sat down and rolled out a chapati, the thawa was really hot. He rolled out an octopuslike chapati. Now, when you roll out a chapati, the ball bearing for rolling it out is the dusting of flour, and if you roll the chapati in too much flour you actually roll flour into the surface of the flatbread, and then even if you try to flap it off you will still have a crust of flour. So you should use a minimal amount for the ball bearing and then flap off the little extra.

“Maharaja’s octopus was covered with flour on a hot thawa. When he put it on, I said, ‘Maharaja, what should I be looking for?’

“He said, ‘You wait until there are pimples on the top.’

“As soon as the chapati hit the griddle—very hot—the pimples came very fast. He turned the chapati over, and there were little burnt holes. So there was no question of it puffing up.

“So, he put it on, and the little bubbles appeared at different places, and he took it in to Prabhupada. Then he came back and told me, ‘Prabhupada said, “This is excellent.” ’

“So that’s how Prabhupada taught me. It was never with a whip, but they were beatings nonetheless. They were beatings over my head.”
Vapuh: Service Without Expectation or Demand

Personal service should be offered without expectation of or demand for external reciprocation—for attention or expressions of approval or affection. When Yamuna-devi was undergoing treatment at Bhaktivedanta Hospital toward the end of her life, I encouraged some of my disciples to take the opportunity to serve her, and I asked her to guide and instruct them as she saw fit. Here is a written exchange she had with one disciple, a copy of which she sent me. The disciple wrote:

“I want to reconfirm with you my tomorrow’s visit, whether it would be convenient if I come around noon. I don’t want to disturb you, so let me know exactly what time I could drop in. One of my dear godsisters is craving to see you. Can she come along, if it’s not inconvenient?”

Yamuna-devi replied:

“Unfortunately, being in the hospital means being inconvenienced with medicines to help my condition. Three days ago I was put on new diuretics and am not up for any visits or visitors at all. . . . So many want to visit, but it is not possible.

“When you come you will have to be like the cook I was for Srila Prabhupada: bring the prasada for respecting and leave unspoken to. That was the norm, unless he gave some instruction how to make adjustment in the cooking or unless he made the occasional comment.

“Giriraj Swami asked me to instruct you, so I am passing this on to you. It is a small aspect of the classical teacher-apprentice mood—serve in silence unless spoken to. While I never took a teacher mood with you, this is a rich rasa to explore on different levels.

“If you continue to bring baked goods once or twice again, at least you will have access into experiencing the tip of the richness of this kind of service. It is similar to what we do when we offer bhoga on the altar: pray, cook in a meditative mood, deliver, offer, and depart—bas.

“I believe you are sincere and mature enough to do this. It was expected of Srila Prabhupada’s cooks. In fact, it was a prerequisite for cooking for him at all. Hopefully it will bring you to a new level of service, something you can use in your service to your own guru maharaja.”

When Srila Prabhupada was in Allahabad for the Ardha-kumbha-mela in December 1970 and January 1971, Yamuna-devi and I were there with him. Srila Prabhupada spoke on the story of Ajamila and the holy name from the Sixth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Only the first two cantos had been translated and published then, so Prabhupada read from his Sanskrit Bhagavatam with commentaries, sometimes translating from Sridhara Svami’s comments and occasionally from Jiva Gosvami’s. While there, I heard that Srila Prabhupada had said he was speaking for Yamuna.
In April 2007, when Yamuna visited me in Carpinteria, I asked her about it. And she told me something that etched an indelible impression on my heart. As she explained, she had always thought she had as much right as anyone to walk or sit close to Srila Prabhupada. And generally when he spoke, she would sit in front of the vyasasana at his feet. She had never really considered that men should walk or sit closer to Prabhupada, women further away. The movement had been like that in the early days—like a family.

In Allahabad, however, one of the sannyasis explained to Yamuna that in India the women sat apart and that she should too. So during the next morning’s lecture she sat at some distance from Srila Prabhupada. Later that morning, Prabhupada noticed her passing by his tent, and he called, “Yamuna, come in here.” She entered and offered her obeisances, and before she got up he said, “So, you don’t want to hear anymore?” Yamuna burst into tears; Prabhupada—hearing from him—was her life. “Where were you this morning?” he asked. Yamuna told him exactly what had happened. Prabhupada was silent.

That, as she told me, was a turning point in her life; it changed her whole orientation in Krsna consciousness. She suddenly had the realization that she would not always have Prabhupada’s company. Since 1967, when Srila Prabhupada recovered from his stroke, she had never been able to conceive of ever being separated from him. The devotees were so dependent on him for everything, it was inconceivable to them that he would not always be with them. But, she told me, every disciple must come to a personal realization that there will come a time when the spiritual master will not be present. And for her that moment came in Allahabad, after her talks with the sannyasi and then Srila Prabhupada.

Sitting in Prabhupada’s tent, she asked him, “How much time did you actually spend with your guru maharaja?”

“Very few occasions,” he said, “maybe five or six. But they were very intimate. We used to walk and talk so many things.” Then he said, “Those who think that association with the spiritual master is physical, they are no better than a mosquito sitting on the lap of a king. And what is the business of a mosquito? Simply to suck blood. So many of my godbrothers, they were big, big sannyasis, and they thought like that, and they simply sucked blood.”

Yamuna took Prabhupada’s words as confirmation. She now understood that she needed to go to another place to explore her relationship with him and her service to him in separation. She began to consider the question of vani (words, instructions) and vapuh (body, form), and she got more and more insight into it. As she told me, it is “unlimitedly deep and profound. You can hear the terms on the surface, but vani means to again be in Prabhupada’s presence”—to be in his presence in separation as much as when you were in his physical association. “So that was a turning point for me,” she said, “to realize that Prabhupada was going to leave this planet: ‘He is an old man, and he is going to leave, and I have to prepare.’ ” She understood that from that moment she must start mentally preparing—find a way of continuing in Krsna consciousness that was not based on Srila Prabhupada’s personal association.

“So, that is that story of hearing,” she continued. “Prabhupada said, ‘I am speaking so much because you want to hear so much.’ So he knew that hunger. I never expressed that to him, but he knew.” As Yamuna often said, Srila Prabhupada was completely aware of every disciple in every way—both their internal consciousness and the external manifestations of their service.

Vani and vapuh became a major theme in Yamuna-devi’s life—how to maintain one’s connection with Srila Prabhupada through vani to the same degree and with the same intensity as in his physical, even close personal, presence. She was convinced that it was possible, and she arranged her life in such a way as to always receive his guidance and mercy—to always be in his association.

In conclusion, I quote from a letter Yamuna wrote me some years ago, which has given me some solace and guidance in separation:

“I remember when Dina and I visited you in your house in Vrndavana. We asked you one question, and you took three hours to answer it: ‘How has your relationship with Srila Prabhupada changed since his departure?’ The departure of loved ones helps us to change, to go deeper. Surely this will happen.”

Hare Krsna.

Your servant,
Giriraj Swami

Gopimata devi dasi

Visiting Yamuna in Sharanagati

I will never forget arriving at Sree Sree Radha Banabehari’s mandir to see a group of beautiful young ladies busily serving Their Lordships. As soon as we walked in, Yamuna requested them to all take a break from their duties to sit down with us and that they should take turns saying something nice to glorify other devotees. In fact, this is something that I observed every time someone walked in through the doorway during my stay of several days. She trained the young devotees to make cultivation of Vaishnava qualities the priority. As a result, they learned to see the good in one another like the honey bees seeking nectar rather than looking for the dirty things, like the flies do.

Yamuna and Dina gave me a cot to sleep on in their transcendental storage room.

I would lie there admiring the rows and rows of neatly stacked, tidily packed, bins full of paraphernalia. Each item lovingly chosen for the pleasure of Krsna.

Early, early in the morning I would hear the deep melodic drone of Yamuna’s chanting float through the ashram. A sound vibration that lifted me into a transcendental timeless world full of excitement and unlimited opportunity for blissful, transcendental devotional service.

Each day, Yamuna prepared some delectable offering for the Lord and often al¬lowed me to watch and help. Every time I let the ghee heat to smoking while we were frying, she patiently cautioned me to cool it.

When it was time for the bhoga offering she would take my hand in hers and swinging our arms back & forth, loudly sing the offering prayers in a beautiful melody. Imagine spending time with a person whose every word was a song, every step a dance! She would often spend extra time mentally offering many additional “imaginary” delicious preparations to supplement the ones she had time to physically prepare.

Sometimes she sat on the front porch in the bench sized swing to chant gayatri, casting back & forth to stir up a cooling breeze.

She would serve carinamrita on the porch. It would be offered to guests in a dainty wine glass.

During this summer they were engaged in a deep study of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s life and writings. A room full of devotees would gather to relish this study which was made sweeter by Yamuna’s presence. She often invited her friend Kartimisha to lead the chanting, saying that he was completely free from false ego.

When I asked if she would please lead the kirtan sometimes, she stated frankly that that was impossible. She explained that she was no longer able to chant without weeping. A respected god-brother had advised her that she must not al¬low herself to do this in public as it could be seen as a way to get attention or en¬courage others to do this artificially. I argued that we were only a gathering of friends. Besides that, women were known for being soft-hearted, and who cares what people think anyway. But she would not be persuaded at that time.

One day she took me with her to the local swimming pool. We practiced different yoga moves in the water to help relieve her sciatica while she provided much appreciated answers to the questions I had been struggling with.

I later asked for confirmation of the validity of the service I was trying to develop for Srila Prabhupada and this was her reply via email:

“know what ever you do you will share Krsna consciousness with others. so many ways to do that, directly or indirectly.

what can we do but aspire for honesty, purity, and clarity, and give what you have realized…”

These words were perfect for me. They reminded me that the what I was doing was no big deal, but the consciousness in which I performed this had the potential to represent The Lord in a pleasing way.

During this visit, I urged Yamuna to please continue writing about her memories of Srila Prabhupada in spite of set backs. She could recount these stories with in¬credible detail, usually mentioning the exact date, time, and place of the pastime, as well as everyone who was present there and what they said and did. I explained that even though I had the good fortune of finding Srila Prabhupada in 1977, I felt orphaned when he passed away, just 3 months after my initiation. I always felt that she was my link to him – my way of knowing him as a lovable personality. Her reply was that so many others had written and were able to do so much more eloquently.

I think that perhaps, after so many years of being in the lime light of our movement, she had become fatigued by the subtle pains that came with receiving attention. Yet her only desire was to direct our attention to the deep and astonishing qualities that she found in Srila Prabhupada and she did this with exuberance. This is the dearest clue I have found in understanding the nature of the pure-hearted devotees.

Govinda dasi

My humble obeisances at your lotus feet. My humble obeisances at the lotus feet of our beloved Master Srila Prabhupada, without whom none of us would ever have the opportunity to approach the realm of Krishna Consciousness. All Glories to the wonderful divine personality whom we affectionately call Srila Prabhupada!

It is with great sorrow that I wish to express my heartfelt grief and bereavement for the loss of our beloved Godsister Yamuna devi dasi. Yamuna devi has always been a stalwart beacon of pure Krishna Consciousness. Daily we are inspired by her transcendentally beautiful voice as she sings the “Govindam” prayers at the time of greeting the Deities at every ISKCON temple in the world. This morning song always gave our beloved Master Srila Prabhupada great joy, and so we can know for certain it continues to give the Lord and His Divine Associates the greatest pleasure.

For me, Yamuna devi was always seen as some special goddess, sent here to help my Master Srila Prabhupada in his work on this planet Earth, and one whose depth of devotional mood was both mysterious and ecstatic. Yamuna devi remained always true and faithful to Srila Prabhupada’s ecstatic Vrindaban mood, and was never swayed or distracted by the various mayas, in the forms of pratistha, or the mad rush for name, fame, disciples, and wealth. She remained fixed in the pure devotional moods inspired by Srila Prabhupada, always absorbed in chanting the Holy Names, and caring for her beautiful Radha Krishna Deities, advancing on the inner planes of Krishna bhakti.

Once in Hawaii I witnessed Srila Prabhupada’s appreciation for this consistent inner devotional mood. One senior Godsister who had just returned from Vraj was sitting peacefully beneath a tree, chanting japa in quiet ecstasy. Srila Prabhupada stood by his window overlooking this peaceful scene. In his room was an ongoing political quarrel amongst various Godbrothers–money and management disputes–which he had to deal with. Already the element of quarrel and ambition had invaded his young ISKCON movement. I watched as he stood by the window overlooking the lovely Hawaiian landscape, and the one lone Godsister sitting beneath a tree chanting Hare Krishna softly on her beads.

He sighed deeply, and softly said, “Ah yes, THIS is Krishna Consciousness. Sitting peacefully and chanting Hare Krishna. Yes, THIS is Krishna Consciousness.”

Yamuna devi was such a devotee. She sat before her beloved Deities, absorbed in ecstasy, and chanted Hare Krishna with pure love and devotion. She was the beacon of pure Krishna Consciousness. Her bhakti was without any aspiration for name, fame, or aggrandizement, nor any desire for power, wealth, or disciples. She was a stalwart of the original bhakti movement introduced by Lord Chaitanya and brought to us by Srila Prabhupada.

Certainly Yamuna devi is being welcomed by our beloved Srila Prabhupada into the nitya lila of Sri Sri Radha Krishna, and Lord Chaitanya and His Eternal Associates. There must be a joyful kirtan going on, and All are relishing the sweetness of her pure devotional voice. There must be a grand festival upon her arrival!

But we here in this world are suffering this great loss. It is with much sadness that we express our tears of bereavement , and wishes that we may someday follow in her lotus footsteps, and touch the lotus feet of our beloved senior Godsister Yamuna devi dasi.

Guru das

I am saddened by my feeling of separation from you, that I will not see you again on this planet, yet I still feel close to you. Our relationship transcends material boundaries and You are in my, and many peoples hearts. Let us all pray for your continued spiritual journey, which makes me happy, as you are not in pain anymore, and with our beloved Spiritual Master, and Radha and Krishna.

• I fell in love with you upon viewing your powerful presence.

• I fell in love with you, little did I know what A great path you carved out and offered to me, for you introduced me to Prabhupad.

• I noted your great qualities, spiritual beauty, perseverance, a great confidant and friend. Steadfast, curious, sweet, meticulous, detail oriented, and expert in anything you were interested in. Your smile lit up many rooms and hearts.

• You showed love for Prabhupad from the very beginning.

• We were both interested in paths to God and how to be compassionate to others.We were a good team.

• We laughed, cooked, sang, read to each other and shared 9 wonderful married years together.

• We both literally saved each other more then once. We travelled to Bend Oregon to Aunt Edna’s dance class, which I photographed at Graduation. I met your dad also.

Yamuna you saved me from being paralyzed in Rockport Ca.
• When I had Typhoid fever, You moved right into the hospital and hut hutted the big dog sleeping under my bed, which I thought was an hallucination, from 3 weeks of fasting and fever.

• You moved right into the hospital room, cooked specially for me, which healed me, whilst you slept on the floor.

• We set out for Rockport, Ca. with all our belongings in a borrowed car, not knowing where we would end up, with faith in Krishna.

• We found a nice 7 room cottage in the redwoods for $33. 00 a month. untill the San Francisco devotees kidnapped us back.

• We shared great Kirtans, the first west coast Hari Nam, with, Vishnujana Jayananda, Mukunda, and Tamal, etc.

• You taught me how to cook and exemplary deity worship.

• You were the first to learn the prayers.

• We lived on Ashbury Street, Willard Street, in the Bowling alley temple. We shared places like Herne Hill, Clampham, Brixton (music and sounds all night), Betterton Street, Bury Place. We chanted at Conway Hall, The Hindu Center, Acacia house, singing with Sri Keshavji, and Shyama Mataji, Swami Sat Chid Ananda, Et al.


• We lived, at the Radha Damodar Mandir, in straw huts on the site of Krishna Balaram Temple site, and then we went to Saurat, Amritsar Delhi and many many places together.

• As the movement grew we did not have a normal ? Grihastra life, as you were put in charge of the woman ashrams and me in charge of the men etc.

• Prabhupad found more and more services and abilities in us, and gave us more and more service. “Krishna will help you” Prabhupad told me when I said I don’t know anything about construction.

• We Yamuna travelled on foot, taxis, bicycles, Rickshaws, trains, cars, boats, skis, hydrofoils, and airplanes.

• We consulted and then parted to serve others. We were one and different simultainously.

• We resided at Radha Damodar temple,as we were building the Krishna Balaram Temple.

• I remember how you planned the temple and the diety rooms. They were planned by myself, Jai Tirtha and you who led the planning.

• You contributed the most by designing wide doors, hooks on walls, separate kitchens,etc. You exuded artistic tendencies in everything you touched.

• You are pukka, first class, applying your intelligence and intuition, Like the time Prabhupad sent Madhuvisa and You to Jaipur to obtain new deities.
• Madhuvisa describes I was a new sanyassi. “I wasn’t supposed to look on woman or be alone with a woman, what to speak of traveling with a woman. When we rode in the rickshaws, I put my dunda in between us, but rickshaws were small and she was a little large, so finally, I stopped trying to not touch. It was impossible with the rickshaw joggling around.

• After spending 3-4 days with her I saw what a great devotee she was.

• Chanting, talking of Swamiji, and her intuition was wonderful via Chaitya Guru in her heart. She found a Radha at one Murti Wallah and Krishna at another Murti Wallah.”

• We never argued she was a great team with me and others. I can say that we had a functional marriage and many came to us both for advice in their grihastra and even brahmachary lives.

• She had a tough time in India. People don’t know I know. She told me she needed a rest after 5 years of sometimes, harsh living circumstances, sacrifice and some sicknesses, etc.

• We went west to collect for Vrindavan Temple. She and Dina Tarine, left me and the movement in Florida temporarily. The next week my Father died.

• I went to Atlanta and wrote and asked Prabhupad what to do. At first he told me to try and get her back, but she was adamant, wanted a break, and uncommunicative.
• I ended up becoming Sanyassi under the circumstances, and she went to Oregon and then re entered devotional life, and founded Sharanagati.

• I had the good fortune to reunite with her recently also in Florida and we shared 3 hours of reminiscing and chanting together. She sang to the flowers and birds in her sweetest voice.

• Especially we remembered how together we would feed Krishna Prasadam to an asthmatic dog on the Krishna Balaram property.

• We named the dog “Dogwood” and he would come at first to us excited wheezing and then after our care came to us breathing clearly. I remember how diplomatic and charming you were with Tom Driberg, S.S Dhawan, Sri Dhar, Shyama Mata, the Maharaja of Bhartpur, and countless others.

• Even George Harrison could not help flirting with you one day. I had to tell him “Get away from my woman” We all laughed.

• Everyone you touched fell in love with you and hence Radha Krishna and Prabhupad. You told people constantly of Prabhupad as I do. The Indian community took to you and you syphoned their cooking recipes and techniques. Prabhupad said you were the best cook.

• Prabhupad also joked that you were better then Janaki to tease her.

• I could always rely on you in our service together you anticipated things that needed to be done and we both offered that to Prabhupad. He asked you to speak, lead kirtans, to learn the prayers, make the first signs in Calligraphy, Create 2 covers of Hare Krishna Mantras in Sanskrit. You lead the Hare Krishna Mantra and Govindham (brahma Samhita) recordings. Of course that is known all over the world in every town and village, as it is played every morning. Prabhupad cried when he heard it. Prabhupad also asked you the first woman to become G.B.C. You declined because as you told me and showed me “You were more interested in loving Krishna by cooking and diety worship. ”

• You added to me, “I don’t care for administration and politics”

• Yamuna you are unique and a special devotee, who always inspired me and everyone to become a better Bhakta, and I thank Prabhupad and Radha Krishna for giving me so many shared and loving moments with our Yamuna Devi.
I still hear your Hari Hari Bol! Permeating the temple room, concert hall, recording or television studios, every town and village, our world, the whole universe, and in my heart forever.

• You passed with bead bag in your hand with Hare Krishna Hare Rama on your lips.
All glories to her great service.

• I am certain, and as many have agreed, that you are with Prabhupad, cooking and singing, so happily and peacefully again.

Govindham Adi Purasham Tamaham Bajami

More memories of Yamuna from “By His Example”

The population of Rockport said goodbye to us. Our friends, Uddhava, Ramanuja, Lillavati, and Murari our future but uninitiated-at-this-point friends came back up to fetch us and told us that the Swami was coming to the temple more and leading wild chants three times a week, morning and evenings. “We have been cooking big feasts on Sundays and many people are coming to the temple.”

Back in San Francisco

Our old apartment on Willard Street with the piano and the parquet floors had a room open for Joan, Que Tal, and me. Harsharani and Jivananda were in one room and Lillavati and Murari were in another room. The hall ran to a large room in the back, adjacent to a kitchen and rear door and opening out to stairs leading into a plush yard. Glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out of Golden Gate park glistened in the sunlight.

Joan Became Yamuna
As the Swamiji and I became closer and closer, I became Gurudas. Joan was initiated as Yamuna, like the river in Vrindavan India (sometimes spelled Jamuna) where Krishna played. That night, after the initiation ceremony, Yamuna and I went in to see the Swami, and he greeted us with his vast, oceanic smile. “You are both great devotees of Krishna.”

We were silent but comfortable. After some moments, Yamuna asked, “When do you want us to get married?”
“Tomorrow,” the Swami replied.

He did it again! He was making me surrender my restless nature. I felt like I was playing hide and seek with Swamiji and Krishna.

Marriage Ceremony

The marriage ceremony was yet another fire sacrifice. Many guests and visitors filled the temple room, including Yamuna’s Aunt Edna from Klamath Falls, Oregon. Janaki, Yamuna’s sister, had been running around making preparations and had brought margarine instead of butter to make the ghee used in the ceremony. To make things even more precarious, wood from fruit cartons was used instead of forest twigs and branches, so that during the ceremony the fire continuously sputtered, even in Swamiji’s expert hands. His golden fingers picked just the right pieces of wood and made a tent to start the fire. He dipped each piece into the ghee first. The fire began to rise and then die down, rise and die down, but Swamiji kept it going, rising and falling, until finally it burst into flame, and a roaring, sputtering fire lit up the whole temple.

Smoke was rising to the ceiling as more guests came in. Then barley, rice, colored dyes, and bananas went into the holy fire. The Swami was singing ancient Sanskrit and Bengali songs. He said, “This marriage will be like the fire, beginning slowly and then bursting into flames. You are both good devotees; together you will be at least twice as strong.”

After the wedding ceremony, we all sat down to a huge feast of samosas, puris, rice, vegetable dishes, sweet rice, and dahl. The Swami sat on the floor, and ate and laughed with us. “Make sure everyone gets enough to eat,” he said. We were happy in the presence of our Divine father.

Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple

Now, instead of waking up in community crash pads next to new bodies every day, I rose in the mornings with Yamuna, with the Holy Names upon my lips, feeling spiritually clean and purified. The morning shower was refreshing, and so was the walk up Ashbury Street as we headed toward the new Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple on Frederick Street. All-night parties spilled out of the Grateful Dead house across the street as we walked by, and Jivananda and Harsarani would join us as we turned right on Frederick Street and we ambled down the hill. I felt excited by the newness of it all, but I also felt content, part of a growing family of devotees.

The Swami also had a knack for finding out our talents, dreams, and wishes and then engaging them in Lord Krishna’s service. “Everything we do,” he told us, “you can do it for Krishna; we can offer our food in thanks and, Gurudas, you can photograph beautifully, and Yamuna can write in her nice calligraphy.” He would lead kirtan and speak in the temple on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 7:00 a.m. and evenings at 7:00 p.m. The atmosphere felt otherworldly and ethereal. We would sing together, and then the Swami would talk for a while, then answer questions.


Yamuna and I moved into a nice apartment on Willard Street with hardwood floors and a piano, just half a block from the temple. Lilavati, Murari, Jivananda, Harsharani, and my dog Que Tal moved in with us. Each married couple had a small room, and we shared a common living room and kitchen. I used the photo center run by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department on Scott Street to develop film and print photographs. Some of us, including Jayananda (taxi), Shyamasundar (Carpentry), Krishna dasa (Jeweler), and myself ( E.S.L. teacher), worked at jobs and gave some money for maintaining the Frederick Street temple. Others cleaned and cooked or did other service in the temple.

Yamuna and I liked our new family. We were vegetarians, for karmic and health reasons, and she could cook up a feast from very little. I was fortunate to be with such a smart, headstrong, sweet woman who could really, really cook.

Shining in the bright morning light, In the temple, I really liked when the Swamiji came down at 7 in the morning, 3 mornings a week. He was smiling as his saffron robes flowed in the soft breeze. With half-closed eyes, he began chanting, “Hare Krishna,” in a sweet, husky, yet plaintive manner. We as a group answered back and then we heard him and then sung out again. Yamuna’s loud voice soared above everyone. I felt my heart going into Lord Krishna’s. We all melted into the transcendental sound vibration. He smiled at us over us. He was like Buddha, Santa Claus, Saint Francis kindly blessing us all.


After we chanted, Swamiji talked to us sometimes about the sweetness of Krishna, and about Karma. Other times, he told of how by offering service in devotion to Krishna, we can Krishna-ize everything we do and we all will benefit. This will help as humanity in general: “Water, the root of the tree, and all the leaves and branches will be nourished.” He exemplified this service attitude by serving us through his instruction and his example.

Each night, the newly initiated devotees would file into the temple. Mukunda appeared with a conga drum, and Yamuna came in looking confident, like the mother of the temple, her beautiful, long, black hair flowing straight down her back. She smiled at her friends, as her sister Janaki, animated and giggling, followed right behind her. Govinda dasi and Gaurasundar, one of the first married couples, brought one of their new paintings of the Swami and hung it on the wall for everyone to admire.

At 7:00 p.m., Swami Bhaktivedanta walked in, head raised slightly, simultaneously noble and unassuming. Upendra stumbled in behind him like one of Snow White’s dwarves. The Swami was not looking directly at anyone but embracing us all. He then smiled, went to the altar, and sat down right under our new painting of the Pancatattva. The five avatars, with Their arms raised, eyes to Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan, dancing serenely: Lord Chaitanya, Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhar, and Shrivas catalyzed our mood. As Swamiji sang the Vande Ham prayers to his line of spiritual masters, it soothed and calmed us. The prayers ended as the sunset and the last rays streamed through the front door and window, bathing the temple room in orange-yellow light. I was nestled cross-legged on a pillow with my back straight. All eyes were on Swamiji.

He took out some bell-metal kartalas, looked around without looking at anything in particular, and began a three-beat: chah-chah-cheee, chah-chah-cheee, the third beat sizzling. In husky, sonorous tones, he sang out: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

We couldn’t stay seated and jumped up almost in unison. Hayagriva blew the kelp horn, as the booming kettledrum created a throbbing foundation rhythm. The mantra was starting to grow on me, and singing with Swamiji leading the congregation was really fun. Kirtan usually lasted more than an hour, the sound rising, subsiding into sweet, low tenderness, and then ending in a joyous crescendo that left me with an afterglow a clean, elated feeling.

The kirtan roared harmoniously even more. Yamuna yelled, “Hari hari bol!” her voice piercing the temple room with its pure, spiritual strength. Janaki echoed her sister. Mukunda played the drum expertly, catalyzing everyone with driving rhythms. I felt like I was leaving my body. We got into a steady, flowing ecstasy. After some time, the Swami speeded up the kartala beat, and we responded faster. The whole room was bursting; the whole city was rocking; the whole world was vibrating; the whole universe was in balance and I was experiencing transcendental bliss! The bongos, kettle drum, cymbals, kelp horn, trumpet, and African instruments all stopped in one unified beat.

Swamiji called out, “Gaura prem-ananda hari hari bol!” In a voice that was simultaneously sweet and grave, he recited paeans glorifying the past preceptors in our spiritual lineage. We collapsed on the floor, bowing down.
We all alighted and sat upright silently as the Swami was now going to speak.

The swami settled into his raised seat. “Thank you very much all of you nice young boys and girls for coming and ..”
We heard pounding on the wall. A loud thump from next door suddenly resonated on the wall. Framed pictures shook. Again there was a thump.

The Swami didn’t miss a beat. He stopped talking, called me over, beckoned me closer. My ear was right near his mouth. I felt privileged.

“What is that sound?” he asked…….
I relished my association with Jayananda during his presidency of the first San Francisco temple. After I was elected vice president, we would ride together to the farmers’ market or the flower outlets and plan events for the temple. Jayananda gave Yamuna and me his apartment on Ashbury Street across from the Grateful Dead house, while he moved into the stark basement of the Frederick Street temple where the brahmacharis lived, and slept on the floor with them.

They were wonderfully happy and peaceful days. Swamiji came down and joined our love feast. He beamed love upon us as he was like a proud father, relishing the dhal and vegetable preparations that he taught us how to cook. The kirtan was long and beautiful. Yamuna’s “Hari hari bol!” rang out.

We were happy in an insular bhakti bubble, feeling love and devotion, giving to others again, and a reason to live.

California contingent

They sat, and we served prasadam. They were hungry after a long airplane trip, and they ate with both hands. All the girls Janaki, Malati, and Yamuna were advancing quickly in the art of Krishna vegetarian cuisine, and the food was delicious. Then, like a well-run basketball play, we broke off into little groups: Yamuna and Janaki with Frankie, Malati with Angie, Shyamasundar and Mukunda with Rock, Sweet William and Pete.

I sat down near a window with Ken Kesey. The Buddhist guy sat by himself. Conversations filled the room.

Meeting the Beatles

On the fourth day, we sent a walking, wind-up apple toy we had found at a kirtan program held at All Saints Church in Notting Hill. Yamuna wrote, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,” in gold paint on the back of the red apple and sent it, along with one of our “Krishna Consciousness Is Coming” handbills, to the Apple offices. Yamuna had designed and written in calligraphy a cover for International Times that featured the Hare Krishna mantra in Sanskrit devanagari script.

On the fifth day, we sent Yamuna’s Sanskrit cover, plus our handbill showing Prabhupada’s eyes: “Krishna Consciousness Is Here!”

We sent the daily transcendental packets to Apple.

George at Betterton Street

Yamuna came out of the kitchen with her beatific smile, holding the plate of mahaprasad, and beckoned us into the temple room, where she placed it on the altar. We handed out kartalas (hand cymbals), and George took a pair. I wrapped the cloth strings from the cymbals around two fingers and watched as George did the same. “Let’s chant!”, she said.

Mukunda began with his swinging drumbeat. I clanged da-da-daaah and George picked it up immediately. Yamuna led the kirtan with her strong, sweet, soulful singing. “Hari hari bol,” yelled Janaki. We chanted in bliss for a long time. George was truly moved by chanting the holy names.

“Because Lord Chaitanya has made it easy and available for everyone,” Yamuna said, as she brought in a large plate of basmati saffron rice.

Recording Hare Krishna

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
The recording went well, with Yamuna and Shyamasundar leading, our backup rhythms supportive but not overpowering. George laid down a beautiful guitar introduction, and the chanting built up nicely in tempo and volume to a wonderful crescendo that ended with Malati clanging a hanging brass gong. Our collective hearts stopped because the CLANG! sounded out of time we hadn’t rehearsed it. We thought we’d have to do the whole recording over!

George was calm. Mal Evans, the roadie, didn’t move a muscle. George then led us back into the engineering booth for a listen. I sat next to George as he put the earphones on.

As we listened the mantra sprang forth, sounding fantastic and inspiring. George began sliding levers up and down, adjusting sounds on the various tracks. Paul and Linda McCartney came into the booth. We hardly noticed them, intensely waiting for the clang at the end. Once again our chanting came to a crescendo climax and the gong clang was perfect in its timing and added a nice, conclusive, exotic ending!

George asked us to go back into the studio and sing over our own choruses, which we gladly did two more times. It was fun, and we became 8, then 16. George also called in secretaries, accountants, mail room clerks, to become the chorus,so there were finally 48 voices. It sounded great to me. Paul McCartney became the studio engineer in the control room. George asked us back to the control booth to listen. The mantra rang out purely and joyously. I was completely encouraged and excited by the holy sounds we had rendered. Linda and Paul, too, were nodding with the beat and smiling. They indicated that they liked the sound, and soon they were singing along.

Recording Govindham

I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental form is full of bliss, truth, and substantiality and is thus full of the most dazzling splendor. Each of the limbs of the transcendental figure possesses in Himself the full-fledged functions of all organs, and eternally sees, maintains, and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and mundane.

George Harrison directed the whole session, and even though we were under pressure to do our best with this less-familiar mantra, he was a master at guiding our large group. George arranged a series of large, sound-diffusing panels around clusters of our singers and instrumentalists. Ishan played the trumpet a bit off-key and too loud, so George sent him out into the hallway.

Yamuna sang the lead verses. Mukunda was the lead mridunga drum player, and I was the lead kartal player. I played my rhythmic riff on kartalas near the end of the song. Shyamasundar played the esraj, and Hari Vilas, who was born in Armenia, played the oud, his Middle-Eastern notes cascading between verse and chorus. George played harmonium and the guitar introduction. George Martin directed the harpist and other members of the London Philharmonic, who created the huge ethereal wall of sound that makes “Govinda” so unique. The recording was well accepted, it sold well, and again The Radha Krishna Temple made the charts in many countries.

When Prabhupad heard the recording, he cried and asked that “Govinda” is played every morning to greet the Deities in every ISKCON temple on the planet. And still, whenever I hear the chorus building up at the end of “Govinda,” tears come to my eyes.

Another time, when all seven of us visited Mr. Driberg in the hospital, Yamuna profusely shook a patient’s hand and said, “We are so happy to meet you Mr. Driberg!” The sick man started shaking violently. From another bed across the room we heard a dry British voice say, “But I am Mr. Driberg.” The seven of us left the confused patient, settling at the correct bedside.

Yamuna led our charge
“We are happy to finally meet you Mr. Driberg!” We all laughed. This was a good sign. Mr. Driberg smiled wanly. He was undergoing an eye operation, and we had brought along tapes and books for him to read.

Letter From Prabhupad

“When I remember all of you in London, as well as George Harrison, I become very happy because the combination is very much hopeful. I am so glad to learn that George has said, “I don’t want to make nonsense records anymore.” This version of George I consider very valuable. His popularity and his great talent can be very nicely utilized by producing such nice records as “Govinda,” instead of producing something nonsense. In our Vaishnava literature there are hundreds and thousands of nice purposeful songs, and if those songs, under George’s supervision, are recorded, I think it will bring a great revolution in the record making business.

So when he says that he does not wish to produce nonsense this does not mean that he has to close his business. On the other hand, he will get greater opportunity for producing the finest transcendental records, songs which are still unknown to the world. When you meet him again, you can talk with him what I am speaking to you in this letter. My special thanks are due to your good wife, Srimati Yamuna devi. Her singing songs of Krishna consciousness, and Krishna will certainly bless her and you all.

Please offer my blessings to all the boys and girls, and be happy.

Indrani devi dasi


The first time I met Yamuna was in 1991 at a Washington, DC prasadam restaurant, newly opened by a gurukuli. When we were introduced, it was as if I was meeting a dear, loving friend that I had not seen for a long time. She greeted me so warmly.

My next meeting with Yamuna was later that same year. She was visiting H. H. Bhakti-Tirtha Swami’s Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology (IFAST) just outside DC. I remember seeing her sitting in the chair and talking to us about Krsna consciousness. Although I don’t remember her exact words, I do remember how her presence filled the room with love.

On another occasion, also in DC, Yamuna invited H. H. Bhakti-Tirtha Swami and all the devotees from IFAST to a program and dinner at the home of Bhakta Henry. I felt honored and humbled knowing that the world famous author, cook, and devotee, Yamuna Devi, was in the kitchen cooking for us and serving us. After dinner we sat in the temple room talking. I remember Yamuna’s sparkling eyes, charming laughter, and that same loving energy that touched me and everyone else in the room. As we left her company that evening, she gave each of us a picture of her Deities, Sri-Sri Radha-Banabehari. I still have that photo on my altar.

The last time I was with Yamuna was here in Alachua, the year before she moved to Florida. She came to visit me at my apartment. I remember being concerned about her health, but somehow we never got around to that topic. Instead, she focused on me and on sharing the essence of Krsna consciousness. It was a sweet, loving exchange, and we sat and talked about H. H. Bhakti-Tirtha Swami and about chanting Hare Krsna. I felt honored and unworthy that she had taken the time to visit me. Her presence, her smile, and her sincere devotion deeply touched my heart.

Yamuna was love personified. And she helped me and so many others to experience that love. After all, that is what Krsna Consciousness is about: love of Krsna. But we have to experience that love in our daily lives in order to long for it on the transcendental level. I think of Yamuna as Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada’s agent to give us that all-important experience. This service she accomplished not so much through her words as through the love she expressed in her actions.

Jaya Keshava das

One thing I should say about her that I didn’t in my little homage to her is that she fulfilled a desire I have cherished all my life. I sometimes tell myself that if the maha mantra doesn’t save me, perhaps the songs of the Vaisnava acaryas will. I have always longed for the day when for a few hours devotees can drop the world and pick up the songs of Bhaktivinode Thakur, Narottama das, Govinda das, etc. I appreciate the resurgence of nam yajnas, but always wished we could add a song or two in there. December ’09 was the first time in maybe ten years when I got to see that happen. It was Yamuna, Dina and Kar inviting me into their special place. I wanted to contribute more, to relish more, but best i could do was just sing along. One evening on the way out, Yamuna told me “you have a very powerful energy in your voice. You should use it to bring people to Krsna.”

Her words came again when my astrologer told me this year, “Many people will come to you to hear about Krsna. you should use your voice to speak, so use the next few years to deeply study.”

She reminded me of the river Yamuna. I would go often in the early morning and just watch Yamuna dance with pilgrims’ lamp offerings twirling on her surface. Around mother Yamuna, I had this habit of also just sitting and observing her mood, her movements- so graceful, fluid and pure. I don’t know what good fortune took me to her association, but I am glad it did.

“T’was Grace that taught

my heart to fear.

And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear…

the hour I first believed.”

All glories to Sri Krsna, who so gracefully sent his grace in the form of her grace, Yamuna dasi.

Jitari das

Personally I owe so much to Yamuna Devi. She and her lifelong  friend , Dina Tarine,  graciously hosted  my daughter Nadia for a few weeks at their ashrama at Sarangati when she was a teenager.  Today my daughter lives most of the year in the sacred land of Vrndavan.  Everyday I see the results of just that small amount of time at her ashrama.

In March of 2011 until the summer of that year, Yamuna Devi, lived in the home I share with my wife, Rangavati devi dasi  and our daughter, Nadia in Alachua Florida.   She was transitioning to a geographic situation that would be better for her health. There were innumerable moments to recount of such a fortunate situation of living  in the same place as Yamuna Devi,  but I will just share two or three.

When we would sit to honor prasadam during her stay, it was always an amazingly unique and spiritually  surcharged event. Yamuna Devi’s vision and connection to prasadam was very deep.  Each and every time we would chant the beautiful prasadam prayer, composed by Bhaktivinode Thakura,  she would in tone a different melody. And when it was my turn or my wife’s turn, we also had to join in on the challenging fun.  Her creativity expanded both in meals and music.

Her presence was truly delightful. When I would walk by the door to her room, there was always a wonderful fragrance emanating from the doorway.

Lastly, I saw how hard and diligent she worked to find a new place to live. Calmly expecting, seeing and believing that the perfect situation would come by the sweet will of her Divine Lord Sri Krishna.  And come it did.

Just like the sacred river, Yamuna which hosted the innumerable pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna

Srila Prabhupada’s Yamuna devi, you are deep in Vaisnava qualities and  inspiring behavior

Srila Prabhupada invested so much of his transcendental potency and vision in you

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth


I first heard your voice in 1969, just a lost soul living the California life

You sang of the world of Radha Krishna Govindam adi purusam, govinda jaya jaya, govinda jaya jaya

Inviting myself and millions of souls to the transcendental world that Srila Prabhupada had shown you

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth


For many years, I simply watched the flowing pastimes of Srila Prabhupada’s movement

Living in a house he had built in which the whole world could live

Listening to your voice, everyday greeting the Dieties, inviting , invoking our love of God

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth


Then, just like we hear of Lord Visnu, a demi-god or demi-goddess arising from the sacred yajna fire

You physically appeared, with your loving radiance, in my life and the world of so many others

Reminding us of Srila Prabhupada’s beauty, grace, kindness and expertise in all affairs, material and spiritual

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth


A river traverses thru many villages, pastures, mountains and forests serving the needs of everyone

You selflessly traveled in my life and the lives of countless other souls

Oh Yamuna devi,  thank you for your wonderful example, leading a devotional life

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth


Hearing how deeply you touched so many on your journey , allowing others to assist you in service

And seeing their own lives transformed by this immersion with you in Krishna consciousness

Becomes a powerful testament of your link with Lord Sri Krishna and your gurudeva

He knew you in a such a way that your true nature shone forth

Kalakantha das and Jitamrta devi dasi

We became close to Yamuna and Dinatarine Prabhus over the last five years. We run a busy college outreach program in Gainesville and, in 2006, looking for a getaway during the summer breaks, we decided to visit Saranagati, as we had lived and served in Vancouver temple years ago and had many friends there.

Soon after arriving in Saranagati we discovered Banabihari Ashram, a straw bale house plastered in adobe covered with a green metal roof perched on a small hilltop overlooking the five-mile long Saranagati Valley. There lived the servants of Radha Banabihari, Yamuna and Dinatarine, whom Srila Prabhupada had instructed in the 1970’s to open a widow’s ashram. They had run one ever since in various ways and places, always worshipping their beloved Lordships Radha Banabihari, most recently in this breathtaking ashram they had built with their own hands.

There are many wonderful devotees in the Saranagati community who have built attractive and functional houses. Here, though, we found an extraordinary masterpiece of thoughtful devotional craftsmanship: rough-hewn wooden paneling; peeled logs serving as beams and spanning the ceiling; stained glass insets on the windows; rustic built-in bookshelves packed with hundreds of devotional and other interesting books on gardening, construction, cooking and more; hand-made (and very comfortable) furniture in the center of the large main room; an exquisite altar with a large stained-glass backdrop featuring the gopis in Vrindavan; a brilliantly designed kitchen centered around a woodstove that heated the entire ashram; all kinds of eco-friendly and ingenious systems for living off the grid; and nooks and shelves placed tastefully here and there displaying devotional treasures such as Srila Prabhupada’s original three-tiered cooker.

Admiring the gorgeous stained glass work I asked Yamuna who made them. “Yamuna devi,” she replied in a curt tone that indicated nothing more was to be said on the subject.

Yamuna and Dina charmed us with their very gracious mood and inspired us with their unalloyed dedication to Srila Prabhupada. Meeting them tipped the scales; we decided that Saranagati was the place to spend our summers. The two ladies were the heart of the ashram. They held a punctual morning program every day, open to all, plus evening reading and kirtan meetings two or three times a week. During the months we were there, we did not miss a morning, walking or driving the two miles from our residence to savor the sweet association.

Dina and Yamuna took turns performing the mangala arati. On her singing days Yamuna accompanied herself during Guruvastakam with a small keyboard instrument whose soft bell-like tone mingled with her gentle, angelic voice, creating a wonderfully mystical devotional atmosphere in the cool Canadian pre-dawn mountain air. She insisted we sing not with call-and-response but in unison, a method creating a warm intimacy among the devotees that melted away any bodily considerations of ashram, gender or seniority, bringing everyone present together in an infectuous mood of love for Srila Prabhupada and Radha Banabihari.

After kirtan everyone chanted japa for an hour. Yamuna would sometimes bring out her set of large red wooden beads dating back to her early days with Srila Prabhupada, beads he had personally chanted on for her. She would invite devotees present to chant a round on these special beads. She did not hoard her blessings from Srila Prabhupada but shared them with everyone.

After japa was Srimad Bhagavatam class. Dina began each class with an excerpt from a selected book such as Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s biography or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s writings. Then we read Srila Prabhuapda’s Srimad Bhagavatam, often several verses and purports each day, always nicely facilitated by Dina, always conducted in an interactive discussion format involving all present without a main speaker. Yamuna would often stir the discussion with thoughtful questions, steering the topic from the day’s verses and purports into a variety of facinating directions. Many days it was just the four of us for class, and we talked about everything; their experiences with Srila Prabhupada, the dynamics of ashram and community life, the state of Kali yuga, India, off-grid living, cow protection, Gaudiya Math/ISKCON issues, upcoming festivals, and much more.

During the class, though she conscientiously made sure that everyone present spoke up and took part in the discussion, Yamuna would also add special little memories of Srila Prabhupada. Once, on Lord Balaram’s appearance day, she told us of how she came in to Srila Prabhupada’s room and found him standing before a painting of Lord Balaram killing a demon, imitating with his own transcendental body the pose struck by the Lord in the painting.

She also told us of her adventures in Srila Prabhupada’s service. Once, when preparing for a festival in London, she called George Harrison to invite him, mentioning that a particular rice pudding dish that he loved was on the menu. “Shall I set a plate for you?” she asked. “You’d better set two,” he replied.

She described how, when recording the famous ‘Radha Krishna Temple’ album, that she and all the devotees were up late in George’s studio as he and Paul McCartney worked on the mixing. Many of the devotees were asleep here and there, so she sat at the harmonium and began chanting, “Bhaja Hure Mana.” She said that during the early and very difficult days in London she had learned that bhajan by listening over and over again to a recording of Srila Prabhupada singing it. “There were no songbooks,” she added.

As she sang the bhajan, accompanying herself with the harmonium, she did not know that George was recording her. Much to her chagrin, he insisted on including the recording on the album, dubbing over some simple hand-clapping percussion. Later it was pointed out that the title had been transposed and sung as “Bhaja Mana Hure”. “It is all right,” Srila Prabhupada had told her upon hearing it, “You can fix it later.”

Though we would have been happy for those classes to go on all day, the ladies would end them punctually, distribute some maha-prasad, and shoo everyone out to go on with their day’s service. For Dina and Yamuna the day often included writing, cooking, gardening, work on the ashram, hosting guests, weekly town runs for shopping and laundry, and doing crafts and other projects with the ‘milkmaids’, the half-dozen teenage daughters of Saranagati families who dearly loved their sixty-something friends.

Wednesday evenings many devotees would gather at the ashram for Caitanya Caritamrta readings. Inspired by Yamuna and Dina, the group had been meeting for years, and by now they were on their third complete reading of the text. Friday nights were set aside for bhajans. At one point each summer the ladies would host Kartamisa from Alachua and his wife, Radha, a former milkmaid from the Valley. Togther with Yamuna and Dina they organized two or three-week marathons of singing Bhaktivinode Thakur bhajans each evening, completing the entire “Sarangati” and “Godruma Kalpataru” songbooks by the Thakur.

During the bhajans Yamuna always sat as if in trance, eyes closed, swaying to the music, singing vigorously in her clear and penetrating voice, fully abosorbed. At the end of each bhajan she would express deep satisfaction. “Such nectar, such nectar.”

Yamuna would organize the milkmaids to sing bhajans at the Saranagati festivals and play other leading roles in the community. Once, before the Saranagati Rathayatra, she took the bullhorn and made an introductory speech to the devotees standing before the cart. Pointing to the majestic forest-covered hills on each side of the valley, she proclaimed, “There are more living entities here to be blessed by the holy names than there are at the New York Rathayatra.”

On special occasions Yamuna would cook for us. Whatever she prepared was unfailingly delicious and healthful. Someone once said something about a “chaunce.” “The word is ‘chonk,’” she replied. “‘Chaunce’ is a word made up by Kirtanananda which apparently means putting spices in overheated ghee and burning them to charcoal.”

Yamuna recounted the old days when a family atmosphere pervaded the temples and everyone was addressed and treated as “Prabhu.” She did not care for the later stuffy formalities that evolved in ISKCON. “Mother Yamuna,” I once said. “Yes, Father Kalakantha,” she replied sweetly.

We took much of what we learned from Yamuna and Dina back to Gainesville and applied it. We sought to make devotees feel loved and welcomed and involved, and Krishna blessed us with many new Vaishnavas in our community. After three years we were unable to continue coming to Saranagati for the summers. We saw Yamuna and Dina again a few times, in Alachua and India and finally at their kutir in Melbourne beach. Though Yamuna’s health was in serious decline they were both always happy and upbeat in Krishna consciousness. Their steady sadhana and love for chanting had only increased.

As with everyone she met, Yamuna was always very kind and encouraging to us. Just a couple of days before her departure she sent us this letter:

Dear Kala and Jita, Hare Krishna Pranam Dandavats Jaya Srila Prabhupada

Pray this meets you happy, healthy and well in ways you need.

Can literally feel the efforts of your service to Srila Prabhupada across the miles down here in Melbourne.

Thought to share these photos taken on Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s disappearance day and Their Lordships 36th, in hopes that it might bring a smile to your faces and brighten your day.

Yamuna, you have brightened our lives and remembering you will always bring a smile. You are an irreplaceable treasure in our lives. Clearly you are an intimate eternal associate of Srila Prabhupada. You were finished with this world and Krishna has brought you back to His in the most gentle way. We pray to again be in your company in some early morning kirtan hearing your sweet voice, feeling your incredible strength of devotion, experiencing and learning from your sweet devotional charm and your unabashed love for Srila Prabhupada.

We pray too that our wonderful Godsister Dinatarine will find solace and strength to carry on with her service to Srila Prabhupada and thus continue to inspire us all.

With sadness and much appreciation, Kalakantha das and Jitamitra dasi

Kaushalya devi dasi

In October of 1970 I was asked to join the group of devotees going to India with Srila Prabhupada. When we landed, I felt like I was home again. And it was there, in Mother India, that I met my very dear godsister Yamuna-devi.

In that first group of devotees, there were only five women: Yamuna-devi, Malati-devi, Himavati-devi, Madri-devi, and me—and one little girl, Sarasvati (Malati’s daughter). So we all became very close. There are so many heavenly stories of Srila Prabhupada from those early days in India—more than can be shared in this tribute. I was blessed to be able to spend so much time with him.

From the moment I met Yamuna I knew that she was a great, great soul and I wanted to be just like her. She taught me so much, and whenever she sang it was like heaven. Yamuna had this wonderful warm and intimate relationship with Srila Prabhupada and inspired me to feel as comfortable around him as she was. I would follow her lead. I watched how she would interact with Srila Prabhupada and thought, “Oh, okay, I can do that too.”

Amritsar was our first big program after Bombay. It was a Vedanta Sammellan, and sadhus from all over India were invited. Yamuna and I were the only two women who went on that engagement. After the long train ride, we arrived to discover there were just two small rooms on the grounds where we were going to stay. Srila Prabhupada lived in one of the rooms, and Yamuna and I lived in the one right next to him. The men who had come had to sleep on the ground in the courtyard, and it was very cold. I don’t remember all of them, but there was Gurudas and Giriraj and about ten others—I was very impressed by their austerity.

Every morning we would have mangala-arati in Srila Prabhupada’s tiny room, and then Bhagavatam class. Everyone who could fit would squeeze in, and the others would sit outside on the veranda, straining to hear his every word. Srila Prabhupada was very protective of us two women and always kept us close by.

When it came time for Srila Prabhupada to speak, we would all gather on stage with him. He would usually speak in Hindi, so we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but we knew he was glad to have us with him—we were his family and he would show us off with pride. After he spoke, we would have kirtana. Sometimes Yamuna would sing, sometimes I would sing, and sometimes we’d sing together. One time after a kirtana, a man in the audience criticized our Sanskrit pronunciation, declaring that “these Westerners” were not doing it perfectly. Prabhupada was furious—he shouted at the man, “These two ladies have more devotion than you will ever know in your lifetime.” This was the first time I saw Srila Prabhupada’s lion side, and the man was crushed and hung his head in shame. Then Prabhupada said, “Chant Hare Krsna,” and the most ecstatic kirtana followed as the audience showered us with fragrant parijata flowers.

There were many events throughout the course of each day. Prabhupada was invited to different people’s homes, and we would accompany him to engagement after engagement—he seemed tireless. The hosts would always send a driver to pick us up, and Srila Prabhupada would always have Yamuna and me ride with him.

On our way to one event, Srila Prabhupada mentioned that he needed new shoes. So Yamuna said, “Let’s stop and buy some.” And Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes, we will stop at the next Bata shoe store.” So, when we came to one, the driver pulled over and parked and Yamuna and I and Prabhupada got out of the car and walked into the store. “You choose for me,” he said, and he sat down in a chair.

I don’t remember how we knew his size—Yamuna must have known—but we walked around the store and picked out these white plastic slip-on sandals. We thought they were perfect for him. We each carried one shoe and walked over to Srila Prabhupada, who was waiting for us to make the selection, and put them down in front of him. And Yamuna said, “These are for your beautiful lotus feet, Srila Prabhupada.” She always knew the right thing to say. He started to slip them on his feet, and we guided them on and they fit perfectly, so we bought them. It’s hard to describe how wonderful it was to be in his presence; even little things like this could take your breath away. You wouldn’t think that going to a shoe store would be so special, but going to a shoe store with Srila Prabhupada—now, that was thrilling!

From Amritsar, we all left by train for Bombay. Srila Prabhupada rode in a first-class cabin, and we were in second class. As we were riding along, a devotee came to tell us that Srila Prabhupada had called for Yamuna and me to come to his cabin. After we arrived and paid our obeisances, he asked us to bring him some fresh-cooked rice. We had no idea how to accomplish this but said yes and left. We searched for a conductor and finally found one employee between two train cars. Yamuna asked, “Where is your kitchen? We must cook rice for our guruji.” The man looked at us as though we had lost our minds. “It is not possible,” he said. “The kitchen is not for passengers!” We tried to persuade him, but he held firm. Finally, Yamuna stood in the opening between the cars and declared, “If you do not allow us to cook rice, I will throw myself from this train.” She was so emphatic, the man believed her. At last, he surrendered and led us to a tiny and extremely filthy kitchenette barely big enough for the two of us. He gave us rice and left, thinking, I’m sure, “Crazy Americans.” Yamuna and I got busy cleaning the space and scrubbing out a pot for the rice. And when it was done it came out perfectly. Srila Prabhupada was very pleased, and he began eating the big pile of rice with delight. He never asked how we had accomplished the task, and we never told him. He just knew that he could inspire his devotees to do the impossible!

At our stop in New Delhi a gentleman boarded the train to see Srila Prabhupada. He wanted devotees to stay in his city, so Srila Prabhupada told Gurudas to get off and to select some devotees to join him. Gurudas asked for Yamuna, Giriraj, Bhanu, Gopal, and me. “I’d like Kausalya to come,” he told Prabhupada. “She and Yamuna have become so close.” But Prabhupada said, “No, not Kausalya. I have other plans for her.” I still have no idea what those “other plans” were, but he wouldn’t allow me to get off the train in New Delhi. So, Yamuna and I parted—and I was sad, because she had become like a big sister to me.

But we soon reconnected, in December of 1970. When Srila Prabhupada and the devotees were invited to visit Surat, we had no idea what an amazing and transcendent experience was in store for us. Our host was Bhagubhai Jariwala, a very pious man with a beautiful home. Yamuna and I became very close in Surat, like two peas in a pod. We spent every free moment we had learning new bhajanas and verses, and we learned Sri Isopanisad by heart. We bought matching saris and created a special dance for the many street kirtanas that were being announced in the papers every day. The people of Surat, who lined the kirtana route, had hung saris over the streets to shade us and showered us with flowers and draped garlands over us as we passed. The garlands piled so high that we had to take them off and throw them into the crowd just to be able to see. People would run up to us and smear our foreheads with kum kum and sandalwood paste, bring us water, and offer plates of cut fruit. Never in my life had I seen such love and enthusiasm!

In January of 1971 we went from Surat to Allahabad for the Ardha-kumbha-mela. It was extremely cold, and we lived in tents with very limited facilities. Srila Prabhupada commented, “This is Krsna consciousness: we go from living in luxury in Surat and now we are living in tents—but we remain the same.” He instructed us to not offend anyone, as there were many powerful yogis at the festival. He told us stories of yogis that would go under water in the Ganga in the Himalayas and emerge here at the Kumbha-mela. Prabhupada also said that there was a certain time when it was most auspicious to go into the Triveni, where all the three rivers meet. It was at 3 or 4 a.m.—in the early morning.

So Yamuna and I decided that we would go bathe and chant mantras at that exact moment. We got up really early, walked to the river, and waded in. Our wet saris clung to us and the cold wind and water made us shiver, but we remained resolute. When we reached the auspicious time and place, we began chanting. There we were in the middle of the river, singing mantras and feeling deeply devotional, when suddenly, through a loudspeaker, in English and in Hindi, somebody announced, “The saints are coming! The saints are coming!” We looked up the hill, and there was this huge phalanx of Saivites with matted hair and covered in ash, some of them carrying tridents, some of them with chains and padlocks around their waists and genitals, all of them wild looking and running down the hill toward us! We ran out of the river in the opposite direction; you’ve never seen two girls move faster. We couldn’t stop laughing!

The India-Pakistan war was going on during our Delhi pandal program in December 1971, and blackouts were mandatory at night—when the sirens went off, we would have to turn off the lights. Prabhupada was not pleased; he was unable to get any writing done. So Yamuna and I came up with the idea to put black paper on the windows. That night we switched on the lights and he was thrilled. He said, “Now, that is first-class intelligence,” and then with a twinkle in his eye he explained what he meant: “First-class intelligence is you see a problem and without being asked, you do what is needed. Second-class intelligence is I ask you to take care of a problem and you do so nicely. Third-class intelligence is I ask you to take care of a problem, you run out of the room and a moment later come back and say, ‘What I’m supposed to do?’ ” The devotees exploded with laughter.

Yamuna was and still is such a great inspiration to me and to all devotees. She had such devotion in her heart. I feel most fortunate to have spent a little time with her. Yamuna-devi taught me how to be a devotee. And she’s greatly missed by all those who knew her. But surely she’s enjoying many pastimes with our beloved Srila Prabhupada and Krsna!

Krishna Kripa das

While chanting on my meditation beads on Christmas morning it occurred to me I should write in honor of Srila Prabhupada’s disciple, Yamuna Devi, who passed away recently. I met her just a few times. Although she was gracious and friendly, I had a sense she was on a level of sincerity and devotion way above me. I think my limited sincerity kept me a little distant from her. I wanted to say a few things which I was able to appreciate about the interactions I had with her, tell my favorite recipe from her most famous cookbook, and conclude by sharing the notes I took on what she said [and what others said of her] at the fortieth anniversary of the installation of their most beautiful and most merciful Lordships Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara at Soho Street, London, back in November 2009.

My first contact with Yamuna Devi was indirect, by hearing her voice. Back in the late 1970s I was a student at Brown University, where my friend would play the Radha Krishna Temple Album after we would do our meditation. I loved all the songs on the record, including the “Govindam” recording in which Yamuna Devi was the lead singer.

I first recall meeting Yamuna Devi when she attended a wonderful program that Kartamasa Prabhu (known by most as Kar), a very devoted Vaishnava youth, had at his place in Alachua. Almost every other Sunday, as far as I recall, Kar would invite a senior devotee to his house to speak to his friends, mostly a crowd of the Vaishnava youth, the children of the Hare Krishna devotees. I would come too because I knew Kar from chanting with him at Krishna Lunch in Gainesville one or twice a week for two hours while was working on his master degree in sociology. Kar would ask the senior devotee he invited two questions:

(1) How did you join the Hare Krishna movement?
(2) Why have you stayed in the Hare Krishna movement?

Usually he would record these programs on video, and I hope he still has the tapes. There would also be worship and singing for his deities of Krishna and Balarama. Yamuna Devi was a devotee Kar had the utmost respect and affection for. When Yamuna came, that was the first time I got to hear her singing live. Then in addition to her beautiful voice in the kirtana, I recall most how she tried to encourage each devotee there. She asked a question to the devotees and had each one of us respond. She listened carefully and discussed what each person had to say. I could see from that that she really cared about the devotional lives of each of us, and that impression remains in my mind until this day. That was more powerful to me than how she answered Kar’s two questions, which I actually forgot.

When I go home to visit my mother, sister, and niece, I do all the cooking, and my sister has a copy of Yamuna Devi’s largest cookbook, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Yamuna includes a recipe I love for a rice with carrot and coconut which is really simple and tasty, and comes out every time. I thank her for the tremendous achievement of writing such a voluminous cookbook that received awards for being the best vegetarian and best Indian cookbook when it came out, all as a beautiful devotional offering to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna.

In December 2009, Kar was in Mayapur, and he invited me to come each evening to a program they had there with Mother Yamuna, where they chanted all thebhajanas in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Gitavali over a period of several days. It was attended by about twenty devotees, ranging from Vaishava youth teenagers to Prabhupada disciples in their sixties. I could not attend the whole program each day as it overlapped with the three-hour harinama program in Mayapur I attend which ends at 6:00 p.m., but I came several times and I was there for the last session. You could see she really appreciated the message and mood of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and wanted to share that. At the last session, she asked for our realizations of the program. I expressed that her program of hearing the bhajanas and their meaning made me realize that these are a gift that Srila Prabhupada gave us that many of us do not fully appreciate. We have systematic study of the scriptures like at Mayapur Institute for Higher Education and Training and other places, but we do not, as a worldwide society, encourage the devotees to sing, learn, and appreciate the bhajans of the acaryas. Perhaps we should do that more in general and also, in a systematic way. I felt she appreciated my words. Perhaps now as Yamuna Devi has passed away, in her honor, our leaders might consider promoting bhajana study throughout the movement at their upcoming meetings in Mayapur.

Krsnarupa devi dasi

I first met Yamuna devi in 1974, in Vrndavan when I was a new bhaktine. It was just before the first large Gaura Purnima festival in Mayapur, so it would have been around January 1973. I have cherished my memories of her for decades, although since that time I had not the good fortune of meeting her more than once since then.

I lived in Kolkatta temple from around Feb 1974 until mid 1975. After that, on Srila Prabhupada’s wishes that no single woman was to live in Kolkata temple, I moved to Mayapur. I was Radha Madhava’s seamstress for many years and had the great fortune to look after Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and a myriad of other services in those early, pioneer days.

During my time in Kolkata, Gargamuni Maharaja sought special permission from Srila Prabhupada to give me first and second initiation at the same time as he was in dire need of a pujari for Jagannatha, Balaram and Subhadra. Prabhupada kindly agreed and on Janmastami, 1974 I received both initiations in Vrndavan. I remember Guru das at that visit, but I had no interaction with Yamuna at that time.

When I met Yamuna early 1974, we were staying in Radha Damodara temple and we would attend Mangal-arati there. I can recall with great clarity how Yamuna would sing Narasimha prayers, belting out in her special, celestial voice especially when she came to ‘tava kara-kamala-vare nakham’ in the cold, early morning, silent hour of mangal-arati.

I also helped her clean Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. I remember Prabhupada came back early one morning from the morning walk and Yamuna and I were still in his room. I was very shy of Srila Prabhupada, and being a very skinny bhaktine at the time I quickly hid behind Yamuna!

Now you can imagine this was a construction site with concrete dust everywhere. Prabhupada’s floor was not even properly finished. His Divine Grace ran his finger along the surface of his desk, looked at his finger, and said to Yamuna, ‘This is not cleaned.’ I remember she was quite upset about it and so of course was I. I understood that the relationship Prabhupada had with Yamuna was of this special kind that he could chastise her, knowing she would just try harder.

Dinatarini I only met once, but I can’t remember where in India this was.

Thank you for the wonderful book. I am sure Yamuna would be so happy with the result.

Lavanya-mangala devi dasi

Dearest Yamuna,

You told me that on the day you came into being
your mother was fly fishing on a wild northwest creek.
Once you served us mango mousse whipped with prema and cream.
I will always remember your lemon cake supreme.
Your heartfelt devotional bhajans set my soul free.
I tried almost every one of your recipes.
You were like a mother for this movement’s infantry.
During one visit a special picture you revealed
of your Vraja lila in Prabhupada’s company.
Who could fathom your reclusive personality
or your depth of love for Radha Banabihari?
The world was blessed by the many branches of your stream.
Although the body of your waters is gone it seems
your devotional currents flow on eternally
in an etheric river through Venables Valley
and in the tears of those you splashed with your purity.

your servant,
Lavanya-mangala-devi dasi

Malati devi dasi

There is a verse which is the sum and substance of our business here in this world and how one should at the very end conduct oneself. So this is Attaining the Supreme, Chapter Eight verse six.
Yam yam vapi smaram bhavam..
What ever state of being one remembers when he quits this body O Son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail. Srila Prabhupada’s purport is very instructive.
The process of changing one’s nature at the critical moment of death is herein explained. A person who at the end of his life quits his body thinking of Krsna attains the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord. But that is not true of a person who thinks of something other than Krsna.
This is a point that we should note very carefully. How can one die in a proper state of mind?
So how can one die in a proper state of mind? Maharaja Bharata was a great personality thought of a deer at the end of his life, so he was transferred into the body of a deer. Although as a deer he remembered his past activities, he had to accept that animal body
Of course, one’s thought during the course of one’s life accumulate to influene one’s thought at the moment of death. So this life creates one’s next life.
If in one’s present life, one lives in the mode of goodness and always thinks of Krsna it is possible for one to remember Krsna at the end of one’s life. That will help one to be transferred to the transcendental nature of Krsna. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Krsna’s service then the nextbody will be transcendental, spiritual.
Therefore chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare Is the best process for changing one’s state of being at the end of one’s life. “
So early Tuesday morning, on December 22nd which was Ekadasi. I believe it was also winter solstice, when you go into winter, the shortest daylight hours, depending on where you are in the world.
But on that particular auspicious, a very great soul departed. It was also Saphala Ekadasi, it was the departure date of Devananda Pandita and Jagadisa Pandit. So great souls when they depart, just like the departure of Grandfather Bhisma. He was able to depart at the time of his choosing, the time of his choice.
So Bhisma was at the time of his departure, was so self controlled, that even though he was in a situation that to us was quite horrendous. He was on a bed of arrows, just suspended like that But he was in complete divine consciousness, because by his endeavor and determine to always remember Krsna, Krsna had come to him at his time of death And He stood there before him.
So this is a very exalted personality. But that same opportunity is being offered to all of us by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who has given us this transcendental knowledge so that we too can mould our lives in such a way that we are constantly remembering Krsna. Even if you have to go to the office or to the school or so many places. The idea is kirtaniyah sada harih. And to prepare for that inevitable time when one will be transferred from this body.
So I am bringing this up specifically because Yamuna devi dasi was such an rare soul, who actually understood the value of Krsna consciousness and the need to prepare her life for this inevitable moment.
Sometimes people think, oh, she is talking about death this is kind of depressing. Kind of negative We don’t want to think about death. Prahlada was telling his friends, “Please chant.” “But we are only five years old, we want to play.” But as we get older. It is the same thing, we want to play in a different way. “I have to go to the office. I have to mow the lawn. I have so many things.
It is called diversions. So when Yamuna became acquainted with Krsna consciousness in a very profound way, she understood that this lifetime is a lifetime in preparation. For as it explains here, what one is remembering at the time of death, one will attain that type of body.
So we know, if you remember Krsna, you get a spiritual body, but if we are not practicing, if we are not committed to practicing, at the time of death, we may not remember Krsna. We may be thinking of so many
I remember when my grandfather died, his last words – he was probably married sixty years by that point – so he tells my grandmother, “Don’t worry, the bills are paid”
Because that is what he did, he was an honest man, he worked hard, he maintained his family of five, through the depression and all that. But it is not what you want to remember at the time of death, because wherever you are going, these bills here will have very little to do with your reality. So we are practicing now. We are body building now, and if we do spiritual exercises we will get a spiritual body
So Yamuna was a very extraordinary soul. She took this instruction very seriously. So at the time of her passing, in the brahma muhurta hours, on December 22nd, Saphala Ekadasi, she left her body in a very divine way. ing Just with her hand in her beadbag, and without any disturbance. Chanting the holy name, departed.
But she practiced her whole life. She was immersed always in chanting, whether it was through kirtan or japa. And nothing made her happier, than to engage others in chanting the holy name. Because she was convinced that this was really what we are meant to do. When Lord Chaitanya said that we should chant continuously – well we are thinking, how am I going to do that in my sleep, how am I going to do that while I am eating? Or so many things. But when one becomes deeply involved in the holy name, it comes automatically. It is like a reel to reel, it is like it is on repeat, and you are going to hear the holy name constantly, even in your sleep. Just like you know, after we spend ecstatiPanihati festival and Rathyatra, where there are two days of successive kirtans and you go to sleep at night, and you are hearing those kirtans. So I wanted to speak a little bit about the personality that Yamuna was, and try to introduce you a little bit more to her, because Yamuna is a great devotee, an exalted devotee.
But she (?wasn’t just the person Yamuna, but she was a wonderful personality?).
She was one of the most influential devotees during the opening years of Iskcon. Srila Prabhupada arrived here. In 1965. Nobody was here to welcome him. There was one person from Travellers Aid to greet him and who gave him a bus ticket, who took him to Port Authority. Back then it was a place where all the derelicts and the drunks, a nasty place, but that is where the buses were. So that man took him there where he caught the bus to Pensylvania. So that is where his sponsor was. Then he went back to New York city.
(description of developing New York temple, short description of how Yamuna came to wedding and how they travelled out to Oregon, the fire lookout.)
So they came. Of course very happy to see our good friends, please come in, would you like some LSD? Just like in the Vedic tradition, you want to share the best things that you have with your friend They didn’t want any. (short description of cabin, how Janaki made chapatis.)
My boyfriend Sam, had gone to school with Michael and Joan. He was good friends with Joannie, she was called Joannie then. But they were not boyfriend and girlfriend in a material sense, but they had a spiritual connection. They were always reading books that they thought were spiritual, like I Ching, or Tibetan Book of the Dead. These kind of books that were kind of other worldly. And they had gone searching here and there and had come to the conclusion that after reading ae ll these books that they couldn’t understand them. If you wanted to understand them, you needed a teacher. So at least even though the books didn’t help too much with their spiritual life, they came to the right conclusion, they needed a spiritual teacher. So Syamasundara kept telling me, “We have to get a teacher.” And I was like a typical stupid American woman “I don’t want a teacher. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my life. I want to make my own mistakes.”
They told us, well we are on our way to San Franscisco to start a temple. I asked, ‘What is a temple?” He replied, “It is a storefront painted white.”
(description of how they got to leave because it snowed, and packing up and going to SF.)
So this was end of September, beginning of October that time frame. So we immediately became very intent to find a place to live and to get on to the business of finding a storefront, so we could get this swami to come because now we were definitely interested to meet this person
One of the things they had shown us that evening in the cabin was the first original sets of Srimad Bhagavatam that Srila Prabhupada had brought; the covers were much the same , you see Lord Visnu lying on Ananta Sesa and you see all the different planetaries with different forms of Visnu and then you see this lotus flower coming out of the navel with four headed Lord Brahma.
So never having seen anything like this before I asked, “What is this?” And Mukunda said very seriously , “This is God.” And I was like actually immediately accepting this idea because up until that point I had no idea who God was, if He was. I accepted there was a higher power bigger than me. That much I knew, and I also accepted that I wasn’t this body, but beyond that I didn’t know what this higher power was I didn’t know.
So the hippies want to think, “I am God and you are God.” Do you feel like God? If somebody said you were God would you accept? Well that is how I felt, “I am not God.” The world is not doing too good, but it is going to be worse, what to speak of most of the other people I knew. Then there were the voidest where we could all merge and become nothing. So those were the prominent philosophies going around. So to be told that here is God and have a picture of God, and have a picture of God. And have a person almost, but not quite, beause of four arms and blue skin and lying with a snake floating in who knows what. It was so much beyond the temporary theology that I was acquainted with that I could accept that here was something beyond my sense perception. And that if there is God this is God because He is definitely not like us.
Then when I looked into these beautiful books I kept seeing the terminology “The Supreme Personality of Godhead.” And that made quite an impression because it was something that we hadn’t heard of before. You know we had heard God, Higher Power, The Great Unknown. So then I thought, I want to meet this teacher.
So in kind of rapid succession we were all initiated, myself and Syamsundara and two others were initiated in the first batch. In San Francisco in January 67.
Yamuna had met a young man named Roger, and they had gone off for a few weeks, and during thcat time Yamuna became very convinced that this is what she wanted to give her life to. So they came back and they were initiated Yamuna and Gurudas.
Then Srila Prabhupada then married them. He initiated and married them at the same time. We still weren’t clued in on many of the customs and cultures and practices. So we had learned about making ghee out of butter, but for her wedding she couldn’t afford butter, so she bought margarine.
So when they put that on the fire it was kind of sputtering, causing Prabhupada to comment, “Well, this marriage will be like the fire. Off to a slow start.” He counseled them that they should keep Krsna in the center and assist each other in their spiritual lives.
Yamuna was remembering: “When he went on his daily morning walk, we would go with him. So I was walking one morning, so I asked him, “Swamiji, do you think sometime you would allow us to go to Vrndavana with you?” And he turned around and he said, “I will take you to Vrndavana one day and I will show you Vrndavana on foot. I though that this was the most wonderful thing I had heard in my life and I was just waiting for that day to come.”
So by that time Swamiji, left San Francisco in April, Yamuna had been introduced to traditional vaisnava cooking, chanting, prasadam distribution, Deity worship, (because by then Lord Jagannath had arrived – had been carved.)
This was in April then in July we had our first Rathyatra. And in all of these activitesYamuna was an exceptionally sincere student and she took up every one of these activities with a very devotional attitude. With great care with great attention and great love.
So in May, 1967, Gurudas and Yamuna received their first letter from Swamiji from New York, and he writes:
I have a very good apprecitation for both of you, Gurudas and Yamuna. You are two good souls. Now you have combined. Live peacefully, chant Hare Krsna and be happy in your life.
But the next month, in June, Srila Prabhupada suffered a stroke. And we didn’t know what the outcome of that would be. So at that time he allowed us a prayer, to make a prayer to Krsna.
It was a very simple prayer: My dear Lord, my spiritual master has not yet completed his work. Please protect him.
So in our little storefront temple, we held our first , it wasn’t quite a 24 hour kirtan, we had a 12 hour kirtan. IN front of Lord Jagannath. It was the most amazing kirtan. Anyone who entered the temple on that particular day was affected. By that kirtan, because we were crying from the depths of our heart to Lord Krsna. And He was in front of us in this Lord Jagannath feature. And at that point, we hadn’t sewn for Him, so He was just standing – like if sometimes you buy a deity of Lord Jagannath he is nicely painted – so that is how He was.
But during that particular kirtan, it was a long kirtan, it was really seen by everyone, even non-devotees, Lord Jagannath had come alive.
I particularly remember that Janaki was crying. I remember think that I haven’t got the news. And she said, “He’s there. He’s really there.” And she was pointing to Lord Jagannath. Other people were just looking.
And somehow or other we felt He was really hearing our prayers and He was reciprocating, and indeed it must be so, because Srila Prabhupada, we got the news that he had recovered sufficiently.
So then he went back to India to fully recover, and he came back in September. And he brought little gifts for his students. He brought all the ladies got a sari, from Bengal. I remember mine was white with an embroidered border, red and blue, not jari gold, and yellow gold thread.
Anyways he gave some cloth to Yamuna – he gave two saris, and he said, “This is to make a dress for Lord Jagannath.” So we were kind of startled. We thought that he was dressed, that the paint was His dress.
But he drew a little picture, and Yamuna and Harsarani together made the first outfit for Lord Jagannath. And on the Rathyatra that year, they debuted a hand pulled cart. The first Rathyatra was on the back of a truck.
But this was the first hand pulled cart. And They were wearing Their first outfit, beautiful turbans and Jagannath had a peacock feather.
So the next adventure was that it had been decided, the same crew that had come down to start the San Francisco temple, that we were going to go to London.
It was actually Syamsundara that had this idea, that if we want to spread Krsna consciousness, we need to get somebody famous to chant. Because whatever a famous person does then other people want to do the same thing.
The most famous people at that time were the beatles. So if we get them to chant Hare Krsna the whole world will chant.
I remember Prabhupada calling Mukunda and said, “So what do you think Mukunda?” Because Syamsundara tended to have very big ideas. So Prabhupada asked Mukunda, “What do you think about Syamsundar’s idea to meet these Beatles? “
So Mukunda said, “Well, it just might work.” So then immediately Prabhupada was right behind it.Then Yamuna and Gurudas also wanted to join, so there were seven of us, six adult s and a little baby, who was six weeks old.
So following the second Rathyatra, we took off and it was a little exciting, because in those days they were not so anxious to have more hippies in London. So if you were to come, you had to show that you were wealthy enough to be a guest in their country. And we had no money.
At this point how we, myself and Syamsundara, how we got the money to go. He made the arrangement, but it was pretty… how we got that money.
So we all got tickets, but when you entered, you had to show some ability to maintain yourselves. So Prabhupada loaned us fifteen hundred dollars from the BBT. Just started the BBT.
We flew to Montreal to take darsana, he was there, in Montreal, waiting to get a permanent visa for America. So it was also, the next day was Janmastami, and then next day Prabhupada’s Vyasapuja. So we observed those ceremonies with Srila Prabhupada in 1968. In Montreal before departing.
And for the few days that we were there, Srila Prabhupada on how we should go out on harinam sankirtana. Because we didn’t have books, and so really, the only thing we had to offer was, really only the holy name.
So this was very deeply etched into our consciousness. Harinam had been going on –
In San Francisco the first western street – okay, Thompkins Square Park they did harinam, that was public. They actually took a chanting party walking through the streets. Tamal Krsna , Visnujnana were on that first party. So we actually developed a taste for going out and chanting in the public. So we knew that was going to be our key activity in London.
We got over there, stopped in Amsterdam, and one by one came over taking a ferry boat across. Myself and Syamsundar came first, passed through, showed the money, then wired that same money back ..That way we all got in. Then we sent it back to Srila Prabhupada and it got lost somewhere. So Syamsundara was in total anxiety.
So Prabhupada said, “Don’t worry, Krsna will take care, it is not your fault. It is that banking system
They had made some mistake, eventually it was recovered.
We were there with little money we most of the time were living in different parts of the town. Just like we are meeting here in somebody’s house. Seven nights a week, we would go somewhere, to somebody’s house, to a Hindu center, to a hippie place, The Art Lab, there was a theatre with the play called Hair. And in that they chanted Hare Krsna as a part of the act. So we would go and stand outside the theatre, so that when the people came out we would be there – the real Hare Krsnas.Our little group of six.
Then some people started coming. So Yamuna mentions: I had to move to a Jamaican ghetto, the top floor of one of the buildings. It was really awful. Day after day after day I would sit and listen to a tape of Swamiji singing. It was a beautiful tape he had made in Los Angelos, and I prayed to him, “Please come Please come.”
So Prabhupada wrote to Yamuna. She wrote and let him know how much she appreciated this beautiful tape.
“Your appreciation is so nice. Of course, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya,”
So in the mean time these books had come out, but we could hardly get one copy for all of us, what to speak of distribution.
“So please continue to study and learn Krsna’s way. To everyone you meet. I am very happy to learn that you are going to various homes and lecture halls and holding kirtans and holding lectures on these transcendental literatures. This is very nice, and if you continue in this way, gradually so many people will be attracted that our London center will soon be successful.”
Now we didn’t have a place at that time, but he said, it doesn’t matter, it will be successful.
So these kinds of letters, really encouraged us. So after many failed attempts, in the middle of the winter struggle, somehow Syamsundara met George Harrison. He was searching for spirituality, and he invited us for dinner at his home.
And at that dinner we did very long, sustained kirtans, very blissful. And then afterwards he said “We should make a record.” So that was kind of a beginning
So on the day of the recording, we all went to this very professional recording studio, on Abbey Road, it was very well known.
Yamuna came in and she put tilak on all of the technicians, and all of – you know, we all had tilak on.Paul McCartney was there with his wife, operating the control panel.
{ } was playing the organ, Mukunda was on mrdnga Yamuna was just really deeply praying to Srila Prabhupada to properly execute this. It was a big of a challenge.
Because we had a time frame We had to do the perfect kirtan in two and one quarter minutes. So it took the whole day, just doing kirtan after kirtan, two minute and a quarter kirtan. Over and over and over.
Finally at the end of the day it was getting – I mean , it was blissful it was kirtan, it was not that this was not blissful. But it was at the end of the day.
I remember thinking, “One more take.” At the end of that take somehow I picked up this wooden mallot and picked up this big huge gong there, and banged that gong. It made a big noise, you can hear at the end of the kirtan. But at the moment it happened, everybody just looked at me like, ‘What have you done?”
It wasn’t rehearsed, I just did it; fortunately when George came in the next day he said, “This is going to be really big,” and he played it, and at the end was the gong.
Syamsundara and Yamuna were singing lead vocals. George was really impressed with Yamuna. And one time he told her, “You know Yamuna, if you want, I can make you famous.”
Because when you are a famous person, you have automatically you can get attention. So if you push somebody forward, that person will get automatic attention.
So she was thinking, “Yeah well I could become famous, I might be able to do more than I am doing now, but then I might become more attracted to maya. Or I might be distracted.” So she said to George, ‘I will think about it, and I will let you know.”
So she really thought about it, she prayed about this. And in the end, she said, “Thank you very much, but I am going to stay with Swami.”
It is not that she would have left if she would have done that, but she could just see that in that world – because we had had enough exposure even to see that it would be very hard to practice Krsna consciousness in that atmosphere.
So then eventually we found where we were living all together, and that was at John Lennon’s place, outside of London.
Srila Prabhupada would sometimes sit in his room, and just solitary bhajan chanting with his harmonium. And Yamuna would sit outside quietly on the stairs, and one morning, he called her,”Come in, come in. What are you doing?” He is asking her.
“I am listening Swamiji. Your singing is so beautiful.” “Do you want to come in and listen?” So of course she wanted to come in and listen. So she said, “Yes, very much.”
So he said, “You can play drum. I will play harmonium, and Purusottama can play kartals.” So now, not only would she be listening, she was like part of it.
And for several mornings, Yamuna recorded Prabhupada singing a prayer by Srila Narottama das Thakura, which was Hari hari bifale. And Prabhupada explained to her that the meaning was:
O Lord Hari, I have wasted my life. Although I have taken a rare human birth, like a miser, I have not served Radha and Krsna and thus I knowlingly drank poison.
So Prabhupada asked “Yamuna, what is your favourite prayer?” “I like Sisastaka prayers.”
“That is very nice.” And then she asked, “Swamiji, what is your favourite prayer?” And he said, “This song, hari hari viphale.”
So finally they got a building, Bury Place was established. We had a center now in London
Yamuna remembers: “This was a real growth period in London, just as there was a burgeoning of youth interested in spiritual life in breaking out of the mold of the fifties and sixties. This happened in London at the same time. We attracted people, mostly through the holy name. Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in 1969 was the catalyst. We were the seeds being planted, and he was the blossoming creeper of Lord Chaitanya’s love, and when he came, everything ignited with the thunder, verocity and speed of a fire storm.”
It is true. We had been there for months and months and months, just trying and trying to do something. A couple of people. We had a handful of devotees when he came, but once Prabhupada came, it was just like we went from lukewarm to blazing hot. It was completely ecstatic.
So just from the San Francisco days, Prabhupada had encouraged Yamuna in these sorts of capacities. She was an excellent teacher. She was herself, an excellent student. She was an excellent teacher.
I was talking with her sister, and she was saying that in her young days, she was reminding me how she had studied ballet. And in ballet, you have to be very disciplined. So she understood from a young age, that if you want to accomplish something, there has to be discipline. And perserverence.
So that kind of mindset was already there for her, that made the transistion into spiritual life easier and more effective So Srila Prabhupada encouraged her, “I am glad to learn that you are training the “
At that time we had two new boys, and she was the main one training them. So he said, “ I am glad to learn that you are training these two boys in Krsna consciousness. You are a very nice girl, and I have full faith in you and I wish that you develop this line of service to the society.”
She would train them, and I would shave them.
He personally taught Yamuna deity worship, and he was very pleased with her service.
He said, ‘Regarding our London Math, at 7 Bury Place. It was very successfully opened. And the seva puja operations are going on very, very nicely under the care of Srimate Yamuna devi dasi”
And based upon her recommendations, Srila Prabhupada accepted new disciples. He said in a letter, “I have received the respective letters, Renique, Evelyn and Jolie,{?} and the recommendation of initiation of Yamuna devi, and I am sending their beads to be chanted upon by separate mail.
And then in another letter, he acknowledged Yamuna’s preaching. “I am glad to learn that you have defeated the(?) of the Rama Krishna Mission by giving quotations from the Bhagavad Gita.
If you carry on your service to Radha and Krsna, according to the prescribed rules, your love of Krsna will increase more and more. This you have seen practically, by the grace of Krsna. “
So we can see, as expressed in Bhagavad Gita, it is an ongoing process. We just don’t at the last minute suddenly think we are going to remember Krsna, but we have to begin this process immediately when you come into contact.
I had written Prabhupada one letter at this time, because I was there with a little baby, it was a little difficult. And I was thinking, so I said, “Swamiji, +to practice Krsna consciousness?”
I still not so developed in my understanding, whether it was a proper question, but he answered me, he said, “Yes it was difficult, because his family wasn’t inclined.” So he said, “For you you should very diligently and sincerely chant 16 rounds. Other regulations”– you know, little things. Not the four rules and regulations but other regulations – “may or may not be properly executed but this 16 rounds.”
So this was a personal instruction that he gave to me in my inquiry as a grhastha, how I could execute Krsna consciousness and he emphasized the chanting of 16 rounds. And that was at a time when I had a small child, we were living from one place to the next, literally.
This was before the temple was established. So I could understand from that instruction, the importance of the 16 rounds as a perfect preparation, the beginning and the end. That we chant in the beginning, and that will ensure that we can chant in the end.

So then we all went as she mentioned, to India. WE got a letter in 1970, a little aerogram came and there was a list of devotees he was inviting to come to India. And begin the world sankirtan party.
So myself, my husband, was there, Yamuna and Garudas’ names were there. And at the end of the letter he put, and baby Saraswati.
So then we flew in a very ancient plane that wasn’t even a jet, and we flew to Bombay and entered. And the first day, we were given our first instruction by Srila Prabhupada, who joined us later on in the day.
He sent us out on the street, and we performed harinam sankirtana on the streets of Bombay. You know at that time tourism hadn’t developed. The airport was just this corrugated metal building, half domed metal building. The runway was cement, but inside that building, I don’t think there was cement, it may have been a dirt floor.
So westerners were not so noticeable. So we were out chanting on the street, and people would come up and go like this, and look at your finger. (laughter)
Because they couldn’t imagine, “who were these white people, because we were dressed like this with the tilak, and they would come up and look…
In India, we were again going out, we weren’t, you know you might think, now you are in India, you go to Vrndavana. We didn’t do that. We didn’t do anything except when we were invited to go somewere to perform sankirtana or to go to some program to spread Krsna consciousness. That was our only business there.
Sometimes we would be going to one place or another, and the devotees were coming back from RAkpur(?) to Delhi. And some man came on the train, and they were on their way to Bombay, but they stopped in Delhi.
This man came on to the train. And he said, ‘This person here, he is very big he is interested in what you are doing, he wants to help. They wanted to get off the train, but Prabhupada had an engagement in Bombay. So he said to Yamuna and Gurudas, “You get down here and see what you can do.”
And then he sent four brahacaris with him. It was just this one person , who we really didn’t know, who knew another person, who said he was interested.
But without thinking twice, “Okay, yes Swamiji.” And so she got off the train with those days, we just had one little bag. If you couldn’t carry it with you…so we travelled lightly. And she made her obeisances where Srila Prabhupada was, and the train took off, and there they were in Delhi.
So somehow or other though they were able to meet many Indian leaders. They met Indira Gandhi for example. Prabhupada wrote: “I am so glad to know you are seeing all the MP’s and officials in the governemtn service. And if you can make each one of them a member of our society, it will be a great service. Try to do it to your best capacity.
I am also very much pleased that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is now personally well know to you. For your presence only, she has given special order for our devotees, to stay in Delhi and certainly this is good achievement”
We were having difficulty extending our visas, so she was able to help. Later Yamuna and Gurdas agreed to remain in Vrndavan to help build a temple there.
And Prabhupada wrote: “If you can construct a nice temple in Vrndavan for me in this way, I shall be eternally grateful. Because you are sincere devotees of Krsna, He is giving you all strength and intelligence how to do it.
So of course, that temple was Krsna Balarama Temple. And they were the ones that saw the early foundation completed, and got the building started up.
But not only that, in this beautiful darsan that you take everyday, when you are there – Sri Sri Krsna Balarama, Radha Syamsundar, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai – it was Yamuna who oversaw the carving of these murtis.
She went around to all of the temples in Vrndavana and took pictures where she could and she even took pictures where she couldn’t. And then she studied the pictures. And then an idea. And then she went to Jaipur, showing the pictures, showing the idea. How Krsna should be standing. How His face should be. How Radharani’s face should be, how Her hands should be. Every little detail. How the feet should be placed. And in this way she oversaw the carving of these Deities that are worshiped around the world – anytime – I am sure that if you went online right now, we could take Their darsana.
So that was Yamuna, she did that. And the chota utsava murtis, she also saw to that. The small Gaura Nitai, the small Krsna Balarama, and the small Radhe Syam, Lalita, Visakha.
Now when the brass Deities, for the small forms of Radha and Krsna was – Radharani was made out of asta dhatta, it was like eight metals. So in this way They were like really shiny and really beautiful. And she kind of used the model of Radha Ramana to get that really curvey body for Krsna.
And she had Radharani, her head is slightly, although she is facing straight, Her head is slightly turned towards the Deity. And she had another set made, so the one set is of course in Vrndavana. But the other set became Radha Banabehari, which were her own Deities, and They were her own deities.
And They were worshipped –
On the day which I spent with her, which was a week ago, not this last, Bhaktisiddhanta’s disappearance day, I spent the day with her. And it was the same celebration day for 37 years of worship for her Deities.
There are other folders there – I don’t know if we can get to them – that have the pictures of her Deities on them. I don’t know if we can find it or not.
In a letter that Prabhupada wrote to them, a very instructive letter, to Gurudas and Yamuna: “I am confident I have entrusted this project, which is one of the most important in Iskcon, to the right persons, namely yourself, your good wife Yamuna devi dasi and Ksirodaksayi Visnu prabhu . So far as your question regarding women. I have always accepted the service of women, without any discrimination.”
And this was really the fact. Srila Prabhupada did not put any barrier between service of the men and the women. And he taught all of us to speak, to address each other, men and women, as prabhu.
Nowadays in Iskcon, prabhu like is a synonym for men. But that is like unfortunate. Prabhupada taught us all and he called us Joan prabhu, Yamuna prabhu. You can see it in letters that are transcribed.
And he taught us, if you call each other prabhu, prabhu means master – not that you become master, but you become servant.
So in this way, he wanted us to develop the proper service attitude and the proper mood of respect towards one another.
So somehow down the line, the hinduization of Iskcon happened and prabhu has warped into becoming man. But if you want to study Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, you will see, even in Bhagavatam purports in the sixth canto. He is not saying that the men should call each other prabhu, he is saying, All of you, call each other prabhu, because this will help you develop the correct consciousness. Not that you become master, but that you become servant.
Then in 1975, Gurudas took sanyasa, and at his ceremony Srila Prabhupada said, “Now he is Gurudas Swami. I got him married. His wife is also a great devotee, Yamuna. So now Yamuna has taken a very nice path. She has also become sanyasin. Although there is no sanyasin for women, she has voluntarily taken these vows. She is doing very nice. Therefore I advise the husband, you also take sanyasa.
He named her Deities, Sri Sri Radha Banabehari, and he instructed Yamuna and her friend Dinatarine:”You can attract the fair sex community. If you can organize all these girls, they will get a transcendental engagement and may not be allured to the frustration of life. Your engagement should be chanting and worship of the Deity. It is better you don’t make a large program. Remain a humble program.”
So this was January of 76. And Yamuna reported to him: We have taken your instruction very seriously, living a pure simple life, in the full fire of Krsna consciousness. We think this is most beneficial and are factually tasting the results of this simple life.”
So this is the point, that if you actually start to deeply practice Krsna consciousness, results come. And the results are that you become less infatuated with material life, and you become more attracted to performing spiritual activities.
So I wanted to share a couple – it is getting a little late – I wanted to share some memories of some devotees to give you an idea of Yamuna’s influence.
In particular, in her later years, she was very concerned about the young people, that they would also want to be attracted to Krsna consciousness And this is a little, a short paragraph, of one of those young people. Who is actually the daughter of Visakha. Her name is Rasamrta:
My husband and I spent most of the year, 2010 at Saranagati Canada. A large part of why of we were inspired to do that (because of Saranagati – talke about being off the grid- it is off the grid. So if you want modern conveniences, don’t go to Saranagati).
A large part of why we were inspired to go to do that is to take advantage of the incredible devotional sanga that Yamuna and Dinatarine prabhus facilitated. Every morning they held a full morning program in their house which was open to the community. They simply loved to share Krsna consciousness with everyone. Especially the young devotees. Yamuna prabhu held cooking classes for the youth, Deity sewing classes, Deity worship classes and more. She showered her love and affection upon us and shared her deep love for devotional service.
Every summer, she and Dinatarine prabhu held an evening of Bhaktivinode Thakura bhajans at their house, (they actually did it for a month, every night for a month) Those bhajans were from another realm, profoundly and devotional meditative mood,those melodious bhajans were incredible, indescribable. The Saranagati youth were particularly addicted to these bhajans.
Everything Yamuna did was first class. She was an ocean of devotion And ocean of inspiration for people that knew her and whoever simply heard of her.”
Because it is getting so late, I didn’t know how late it was getting.
Audio from Video Iskcon Pioneer Yamuna – Malati dd Final part
The tributes rightly discuss one after the other her deep attention to detail and her overwhelming love for kirtan and for chanting, and her overwhelming ability to infuse that same interest and desire for chanting to others.
She loved to share Krsna consciousness, and she gave it in such a way that people would gladly except it. She never – you know – you should do this or that – she could do that if she got to know you.
But her general mood was just – come and take it. Just like Lord Chaitanya.
This wonderful personality who has departed, she also had a wonderful sense of humour, and when she laughed, the whole floor would shake.
Her sister said that what was also glorious was her sense of humour, we would go into fits of laughter so that tears would be running down our legs, not just our eyes. I believe her laughter has moved into eternal state of celestial joy. No doubt she travels with her spices and her knives and her pots, all different cooking paraphanelia, and now she is up there cooking for Srimate Radharani.
I will read a short excerpt from Giriraja Swami’s: To understand Yamuna means to understand more about Srila Prabhupada – of his mission and his Lords. She was a mentor, a guide and a friend to many of us, including myself.
In her passing, our appreciation for, and our understanding of her may increase, just as people’s appreciation for and understanding of Srila Prabhupada is increasing. I feel that it will be part of our purification, individually and collectively, to serve her in separation in service to Srila Prabhupada – by tactfully and tastefully making her association and mercy available in tangible and sustainable ways. Such as books or media.”
Toward the end, she didn’t even want to lead kirtans, she just wanted to be there, chanting. So for many years because she felt it would be a distraction. People would be distracted by her voice. You know they would get into a musical mood.
Prabhupada instructed us from the beginning, that kirtan was not about music. So she was very in tune with that, and she knew it was about hearing. Hearing and chanting. Deeply hearing. And so she didn’t want to get distracted from that meditative mood. And she didn’t want to distract others.
One other godbrother wrote of her rendition of the Govindam prayers: “So these beautiful prayers that you hear every morning ( I was going to try to play it..)
So when we made this record, this Govindam prayer. At the time there was a big competition over book distribution, but we didn’t have books to distribute and our records were like going number one. A lot of records were beng sold.
So the other temples were sending book scores, but we sent our record and our record scores to Srila Prabhupada. And the devotees, we didn’t find this out until a little later, they hid the record. They thought “What is this? These – you know, Syamsundar, Mukunda, Gurudas, Yamuna, they ran away to England, they met the Beatles, and they fell into maya.”
But they gave the score. So Prabhupada was reading all the book scores and he was happy, and he got to ours and he said, “Oh, just see – what they have done”, and he was reading our scores about the records being sold also.
Very pleased. Because that meant that those people were hearing what? Hare Krsna.
So somebody – he found out about the record, and he said “I want to hear it”. So they said, “Oh, we don’t have anything to play it” Well, they had some kind of sound system in the temple, so he said, “Play it in the temple”
So the devotees were like, “Play it in the temple? This like it has modern instruments, “
But Prabhupada said. So they put it on, it just happened at the time, talk about Krsna’s divine intervention. Just the time when they played it, the curtains opened up.
“Govindam,….” Prabhupada was there, tears coming down his face. And he instructed that this should be played for every temple for greeting the Deities.
So that is the kind of maya she,.. you can get into that kind of maya, it’s good maya. So you’d think that that would be a clear thing, but after some time, some little hot shot brahmacaris wrote a letter to Prabhupada, “you know Swamiji, Prabhupada, you know it says that we shouldn’t listen to women singing so we are thinking that it would be better if we listened to you singing the Govindam prayers. So do you mind if we don’t play this one any more with a woman’s voice singing, and we play yours instead.”
Prabhupada sent back this beautiful letter: “So you think you have discovered something new, we have been listening all over the world, we are listening, we are hearing, and now you have discovered something new? This is a concert, there are many voices, there are many musical instruments. This is a concert. If it is good enough here (he was in India), then I think it is good enough there.”
So with their little kaulpins between their legs, they retreated.
But this is about the same topic. “Yamuna’s transcendental rendition of the Govindam prayers continues as a firmly established Iskcon tradition and it has been heard of millions of people literally, over the past forty years. “
So last December, the person who wrote this, I attended a conference on cosmology, at one of the premier science campuses in Bangalore. The organizer of the conference was Mr. D.N. Acarya, and he was an elderly white haired Sri Vaisnava from Sri Rangam. And when he saw this person, he realized “Oh here is an Iskcon person.” And he found out that he was also a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. So he began to glorify Srila Prabhupada. And then he said, “I love those Govindam prayers.” And he started singing, exactly Yamuna’s tune, and he said, “I love it, but I am very sad” because he had worn out his copy, he had played it so much. “So could you please help me get another recording?”
So even other senior members of other sampradayas were inspired and appreciating the transcendental ability of Yamuna to glorify Lord Krsna through her voice.
Then a little brief – from Trivikrama Maharaja, he is a very elderly sanyasi. “I remember there was an exchange I remember between Srila Prabhupada and Yamuna that impressed me. We were living in John Lennon’s estate in the fall of 69, and Yamuna had been sick and hadn’t seen Prabhupada in a few days. We were with Srila Prabhupada when she saw him from across the way, and she spontaneously called out, “Srila Prabhupada! I love you so much!”
We were a little shocked by this. (because I mean, he was across, it wasn’t in the same, it was like outside, and she just like called out very loudly) And he turned around and he said, “I know”.”
They had such a wonderful relationship.
Are you all familiar with the cookbook Lord Krsna’s Cuisine? This book, this is like the Srimad Bhagavatam of cookbooks, isn’t it? Just like the Bhagavatam is the cream of vedic literatures, this cookbook is the cream of the cream.
It is just an amazing journey just to read it. Even if you have no intention of cooking, you can read that book and become spiritually enlivened.
I just want to read this one, because this is about this achievement. There were many, I mean this was a ten year heroic effort. But in 1986, this is from Ramesvara Prabhu, and at the time he was head of the BBT in Los Angelos.
“Yamuna approached me about having the BBT funding the expenses for her to write the ultimate cookbook. I was very excited, and immediately agreed.
So that year she came to stay in New Dwarka to launch the project. She was working of three of her godsisters – Visakha devi, Pallaka devi and Tusta devi. In sponsoring her work we set up a nice apartment and every day she would prepare a different recipe, working on it until she deemed it perfect.”
Yamuna made perfection seem imperfect. She was like beyond perfection. So anybody if you really follow the recipe, as she puts it in the book, your preparation will come out perfectly.
This is because she would just go over and over and over, and cook and cook and cook, until it was perfect. And she would write it down each time. You know, most people when you cook, you are throwing things in the por, and people say, “Oh that’s so good. What did you do?” “I don’t know, I just put some stuff in the pot.”
So she was a living example of being a perfectionist for Krsna. So as she was doing these trials, she decided that there had to be someone to taste it, outside the little group.
So she offered that service to Ramesvara prabhu. “ So by Krsna’s mercy every day, every afternoon at lunch time , these amazing ladies would come to my quarters with a dazzling plate of prasadam, artfully arranged so that the visually astonishing presentation, the extraordinary aromas, the color, the texture, the scientific combining of flavors and spices, and the heavenly taste, transported me every single day outside of the earthly plane of existence.”
Prasadam is extraordinary. There is actually a book, that I hope someday gets published, it is an underground book secretly, since the 70’s. But it is about the glories of prasadam. One day it has to get out of New Vrndavana, because it is realy, you know, it glorifies prasadam in such a way that you can never just see it as just food. You know people call prasadam food, they have not understood.
“Yamuna would delight in explaining all of the steps in the process, the art of devotional cooking. She described how she organized her kitchen.”
Like if you go in her kitchen, first of all, you would never, ever see anything out of place. Even when she was cooking, everything would be so neat and organized you couldn’t even, you were like, “What is she doing? Is she doing anything?”
She would have the pots hung, you know we all throw our pots – bang, bang together so they all get dented up. Her pots, because she had been taught by Srila Prabhupada. She was already clean. He taught us how to be cleaner.
So one of the things, when you cooked for Prabhupada is that you couldn’t have even a fleck of black, even on the outside of the pot. So she held that same standard in her kitchen.
So she had on the wall, big pots down to the smaller pots. Almost like a musical symphony of pots. And everything so spotless, you could see your face in the pot. I mean, this is Yamuna.
Everything had a place and perfectly belonged exactly where she wanted them to be, so that she could just reach out. You know, when she was in the kitchen it was like she was dancing, and moving around, and getting all these things, and if everything was right where it was, you can do that.
(back to Ramesvara prabhus letter) “She couldn’t imagine that her offering would be accepted by Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna if there was even the slightest deviation from the standard. Her kitchen was always saturated with the divine chanting of Srila Prabhupada chanting playing throughout constantly.
So this standard of pure goodness or pure cleanliness surpassed anything I had previously experienced. Even in any temple kitchen or temple altar. She aspired to be a living example of purity and she taught cooking by pouring attentive love in her every motion, her every touch of the foodstuff and the paraphanelia she used for her offering.
This amazing lila went on for months until Yamuna decided she needed to be in a completely pastoral and rustic environment which would enable her to be even more absorbed in the mood of Vrndavana that she was trying to attain.
But we all agreed that she could relocate to a farm so she could complete her masterpiece, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine, The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. So as devotees we all have had ectastic almost mystical experiences while honoring prasadam.
Words fail me as I try to describe this experience. For myself, all I can say is that the memory of the taste of the prasadam that Yamuna devi lovingly prepared and offered during those months, remains with me every day as my life, as fresh as if it were just this very afternoon.”
This kind of sums up, there was a very nice memorial celebration in Alachua the other day, and so many people were remembering and glorifying her cooking. But the theme was always her meticulous– the incredible aromas the way she would personally serve each person after the cooking, and how the kitchen was always clean, even in the midst of cooking.
Just a short one here. This is Kalakanta. “Yamuna recounted the old days when a family atmosphere pervaded the temples and everyone was addressed as prabhu. She did not care for the later stuffy formalities that evolved in Iskcon.
“Mother Yamuna,” I said once. “Yes, Father Kalakanta?” She sweetly replied.
Anyway, this is a small thing that I wrote the other day. “It was Thursday morning, December 22nd, 2011, when a small group of friends and associates of Her Grace Yamuna Devi Dasi gathered together to offer last respects before placing her mortal remains into fire.
Devotees from Alachua had gathered together carnamrta water, maha tulasi leaves, manjaris, garlands, candan, and other sacred items. Sruti Rupa had taken the lead in securing a funeral home that was amable to our simple request that we prepare the body for its brief, but final journey into the furnace. As well as being there to assist Dinatarine, who was suddenly bereft of her dearmost associate and intimate friend in devotional service.
On Thursday morning Dinatarine, Sruti Rupa, Nirmala, and her husband Devarsi, and her sister Rangavati, were present, along with Malati, Kartamasa, (who was affectionately called Kar), his wife Radha, and her small son, Ghanasyam, and Haribhakti das.
Ten breaking hearts, who couldn’t imagine being anywhere else at that moment, yet wished that they were not really there for the purpose at hand.
In addition to the physical attendees, Janaki devi, who is both Yamuna’s biological sister and godsister, was present along with her companion Barb, via my Iphone. I called in, so they were able to hear.
Sruti, Malati and Nirmala arrived first, offering prostrated obeisances to Yamuna’s memory and her body, which was now atop a slim geurney on wheels, covered at first by white sheets and blanket from the funeral home.
We were going to prepare her body for the cremation. It was surreal and painfully blissful to do this service. Holy carnamrta was sprinkled as a final shower. Her trademark beige outfit was put on her now cast aside form. Then the marks of tilak and other sacred names were applied.
I was privileged to apply the final tilak to her gracefully beautiful forehead. Almost expecting her to wake up from he so-called slumber and exclaim, “What in the world are you doing?”
But of course, this did not happen. Neckbeads were put on. The sacred oil from Lord Nrsmhadeva was applied. Maha flower garlands, big and small, were draped atop her form, including one around her left ear. The pavitra from Mayapur was put around her head.
Each of us was fully immersed in this final service. A harinam chaddar from Alachua was placed around the profile of her head, and pieces of cloth that matched the colour of her outfit, were placed on top of her form, shroud like.
Rangavati had made a giant ghee wick. (I mean this was a really big ghee wick) That was placed on top of the belly. The others were then called for a simple dhoop arati and circumambulation accompanied by kirtan.
Red rose petals were offered and a gigantic pink hibiscus was placed by Radha, who probably picked it from a local shrub.
Then the funeral home man arrived, and helped to prepare to transport the body from our little space in the corner of a larger room to the actual furnace.
The sides of the cardboard container were pulled up and a royal blue plush blanket with fitted corners was placed over the body.
(I couldn’t understand why they were putting this blanket over-I was wondering why they were doing that.
Then suddenly they opened this door, because we were going to go from there to the furnace. But we opened the door, and suddenly we were outside in broad daylight. We were walking across this courtyard, cars were going by, people were walking by, so then I could understand the blanket.
But then we went into this three sided place, a large carport, and off to the side was the place where this furnace was.
So as this gigantic ghee wick was set alight by Rangavati, we all offered our last roses, and we were pushing her blissful body into the furnace pit, to catch just a last glimpse before the doors closed. Nirmala was chanting Bhagavad Gita. I was chanting Sri Isopanisad. And then Sruti Rupa stepped forward and she pressed the on button, and there was this huge noise like a bulldozer when the fire began to heat up the furnace. The furnace starts to heat up. And it takes about 1200 to 1800 degrees fire to cremate the body. And usually, they told us, it takes four hours, but like she had a bigger body so it would take longer time to do that.
So we were all standing there chanting. Kind of a sad kirtan. But after some time with Kar leading, and he was leading the old tunes, Srila Prabhupada tunes, that Yamuna and all of us loved. And Haribhakti was playing gently on the mrdnga. And after some time, our feet started moving, and our hands were clapping, and raising up, and then crying, “Gauranga! Gaura! Gauranga! Hari bol! Hari bol!” Just with some feeling, then our hands were just joining, and we were dancing, and somehow we were feeling that Yamuna had gone where she had wanted to go. And for a little moment, we felt a little joyful, in a sad way. A sad joy.
So then we finished that kirtan. About one hour kirtan there, and Dina recited the pranams, and we all stood, and held hands together and each one of us went around, the nine adults. There were ten of us but one was a little baby. And we said what it was special that Yamuna meant, what stood out for Yamuna in our lives.
And for myself, it was her great oceanic depth of character. She never did anything superficially. She herself was never superficial. I remember one time, on our way down to San Fransisco, we stopped along the coast. The ocean is on one side of the road.
Yamuna was just sitting very still, watching the ocean, and listening to the ocean. And I was just struck with how deeply attentive she was to her surroundings, and that she was just somehow present at that moment, observing the activity of the ocean.
And as I watched her mature in her Krsna consciousness, from a distance, because she was like the banyen tree, and I was like some little fleck of grass down below there, But this maturity deepened and deepened. And this depth, the ocean is deep. So Yamuna was deep like that ocean. And her Krsna consciousness was always very deep. And she liked nothing more than to pull other people in deeper into practicing Krsna consciousness. Encouraging them, encouraging all of us in that way.
After our little round robin session, we offered obeisances: vancha kalpa tarubhyas ca krpa sindhu byaeva ca patitanan pavenbhyevo vaisnavbheyvo namo namah. And then we went back to their little asrama, Radha Banabehari’s Asrama. And somehow or other, almost magically, some prasadam appeared, prepared by Sruti Rupa, assisted by Radha.
And we all agreed that Yamuna would have approved of this offering, it was very nice. And following that we had a heartfelt bhajan by Narottama das Thakura, followed by the bhajan Ohe Vaisnava Thakura. Then we took a walk on the beach. By then it was late, sunset was coming. So we took a walk on the beach, quietly chanting. Remembering, lamenting and rejoicing.
Yamuna, you know everything she did was first class, including her departure.
Going in a way, without any fanfare, without any obstacles, her hand in her bead bag chanting the holy name.
One godsister, her name was mentioned here, when it said Yamuna recommended these three girls to be initiated. Monique. So she became Mandakini. She was really Yamuna’s protige.
So she wrote a little note, and she is a French girl, and she is living in France. She said, “In France, we have a saying, ‘the hand in the bag’.So in French it means to catch the thief with the hand in the bag. Our Krnsa has come, and He has caught her like a thief, with her hand in the bag.
Chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Caught her with her hand in the bag to call her back. Back home back to Godhead.”
So if you go online, you put Yamuna remembrances, from Krsna Balarama Mandira there is almost six hours of really powerful remembrances of devotees who were there, and they did six hours in the morning, and six hours in the evening. You get in there and you can hear it. Giriraja’s site, he has some wonderful remembrances. And other devotees also, if you go onto dandavats, there Ajamila has put together a little conference together so many different devotees have sent in their tributes and recollections.
So it is very good to meet such a soul. And even though you cannot personally go up and meet her, especially now, you can still meet her.
We understand the difference, vani and vapu. So her vapu form is there, many wonderful pastimes, many amazing pastimes that show her contribution to this society, to Srila Prabhupada. And the depth of her relationship with Srila Prabhupada. And how she was never deterred from that, from this path of bhakti.
So just like we honour departed vaisnavas, saintly vaisnavas, we honour Yamuna devi dasi.And I hope that in your lives you will come closer to Srila Prabhupada, through your service to your spiritual master. And by studying the lives of contemporary souls, like Yamuna devi dasi, become inspired to go deeper in your own Krsna consciousness.
It is now late, and I know many of you tomorrow have to go to work, so I apologize for this. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Devotee: Yamuna devi dasi ki! Jai!
Malati: If there are any quick questions?
Devotee: Where were you when Srila Prabhupada departed?
Malati: I was in Paris. Srila Prabhupada had come to London, and then his health failed dramatically and he went back to India But we were under the conviction that he was going to get better and come back. And the next place he would come would be Paris. He had promised to come to Paris and Gita Nagari.
So we were there, I had spent the entire day, running around the entire of Paris trying to find a chair that could sit in the bathtub, so that he could sit on that chair and take his bath. Because we understood that even if he got better, his health would be difficult. And we didn’t know about orthopedic appliances, that you could buy anything, go to a store and buy these things. So I was going to a normal furniture stores, and at the end of the day I couldn’t find a chair that you could put in the bathtub and pour water over and it had sides on it.
And I walked into the door of the temple, on (Rue Rissor?) and the phone rang. And without even knowing it, I had an instant premonition what that phone call was and I turned to my associate and said, “You answer the phone” because I couldn’t bear to take that news. So she took the phone call and confirmed that Srila Prabhupada had departed.
So immediately, whoever was there, we went into the temple room, in front of Radha Pariswara and we were attempting to hold a kirtan, but it was, we were so bewildered and we were so devastated that the best way that I could describe that kirtan was that it was a pitiful kirtan. We were just trying to chant, but we were just completely smashed.
Because , honestly, even though we heard it day after day, birth, death, disease, old age. We really didn’t ever think that it was going to happen to Prabhupada. And of course on the spiritual platform, there is no death. We understand that. But still, the association of such personality cannot be taken lightly, and you want to take that association, not by just sitting there. Like Prabhupada would sometimes tell the disciples, “you go, you go,you are sitting like a mosquito on the lap of the king. What is a mosquito? He is so close to the king, right on his lap, but he simply bites. So go do something, He wanted us to do something, go out and preach.
So at the same time, when there is the opportunity for association, we shouldn’t be shy to get it. And what does that mean, to get association? Just to sit, and look, to hear them? No. We should serve the person.
And through service, we will really begin to understand what is Krsna consciousness. Serving Krsna means serving the vaisnavas. This is (?) understood. But intellectually, it has to be understood in a pratical way.
Devotee: (Inaudible)
Malati: He would (pull the strings?), and we were called the puppets. One time, one devotee said, ‘Oh Prabhupada, I am simply your puppet. I am simply your puppet.’ Prabhupada said “Yes, I want you to dance this way, and you are dancing that way.”
But we should try, in these lessons, take the intent and learn the lesson, so that we are not faulty puppets.

Mandali devi dasi

The morning I heard about Yamuna Devi’s passing I saw a black crow in the window, feeling something has happened. Five minutes after that my Nitai was checking his email and saw the heartbreaking news. Its always bitter sweet to hear about the death of a soul fully established in devotion because we know they have gone in happiness and to happiness. The bitterness is in the feeling of our separation from them.

I remember how, when Nitai and me were on our way to Saranagati, Canada, where Yamunaji lived with her dear friend Dinaji, I was quite nervous to meet such a famous and great personality. Nitai just kept reassuring me – “Don’t worry about it – as soon as she sees you she will just shower you with affection”, he said.

And so it was, when we walked through the wooden gate and the meticulously arranged garden of the fully eco hand built fairy tale country home – there they were, Dina and Yamuna, with open arms and hearts overflowing with love, to welcome a newcomer to the abode of their beloved Radha Banabehariji. I was smothered with affection and loving embraces and the rest is history.

Kirtans in their presence were so overwhelmingly loving, welcoming, non intimidating, inclusive, sweet, charming, relaxing, fun, innocent and at the same time dosed with a respectful dignity, propriety and depth of knowledge and understanding. To me it felt their whole existence was permeated by that mood and it felt like home.

The prasadam Yamuna Devi cooked for the few of us assembled for chanting of Bhaktivinoda thakura’s bhajans in her neatly arranged and meticulously clean kitchen was so saturated with nectarean love of God that I cannot even remember the taste of it. I just remember that with every bite I felt more and more in love with Krishna.

I remember she told me to always increase the opulence of my Sri Sri Radha Giridhari vigraha and how much she enjoyed getting photos of their darshan.

Needless to say the worship of Sri Sri Radha Banabehari was impeccable. Everything was perfectly clean, silver always polished and the deities looked very happy. I had the honor of seeing the book Yamunaji hand wrote in calligraphy describing different temples of Vrindavan, their worship procedures and even patterns of dresses designed by the Goswamis for their particular deities.

I remember she related to us that Srila Prabhupada trained her in dressing deities and that he told her one of the most important things to observe while dressing is perspective. When devotees take darshan, all the elements of the altar arrangement and the
Lord’s dress should be placed and arranged in such a way that their sight would be directed to concentrating on the Lord’s form, perhaps one of the best examples being Sri Radha Ramana in Vrindavan, who is small but perfectly accessible to the eyes.

One day, in Mayapur, Nitai and me went to see Yamunaji. Then Nitai started telling her about our prasadam distribution efforts – she was so happy listening to him that she was jumping up and down in her seat. Then we told her how I was going to try to design dresses for deities without trying to make profit out of it and she thought that was a wonderful thing so she gave me a present which was a piece of Srila Prabhupada’s caddar he wore at the Radha Damodara temple.

The last time I saw Yamunaji was in Mumbai, at the Bhaktivedanta hospital. Nitai and me stayed with her many hours, talking and chanting the holy name. Every once in a while I would notice a tear rolling down Nitai’s cheek as he loved Yamuna Devi so much.

A couple of months before Yamunaji left the planet, she called me on the phone and we had a wonderful long conversation. Amongst other things we were talking about Srila Sacinandana Swami’s wonderful seminar on creating a temple in the heart that she was relishing online. She commented how when we stand in front of Krishna’s deity form he feels so much unlimited unfathomable immeasurable love for us, no matter whether we have been bad or good. When we touched the topic of personal prayer she conveyed to me that she learned from Srila Prabhupada never to pray to Krishna for anything for herself. Her only prayer was for the Lord to purify her so she may be engaged in His service purely. Since Nitai and me were still engaged in our Krishna Kitchen traveling prasadam catering, several times in the conversation she emphasized how unless we were absorbed in the 9 processes of devotional service we would simply be serving food, not the blessed nectar of prasadam and that we want to touch the heart and make people happy, not just sell food, she said.

When in Mayapur, I remember how, during the lecture Yamunaji gave prior to the kirtan event in the community hall, she expressed that in kirtan we chant in a group we are all associating through the sacred sound and feeling each other’s hearts as we sing for Krishna.

A few months after Yamunaji left, I found an email she wrote to Nitai in which she said – Always remember, we are only a sound wave away.

There is no possibility of measuring how much that means to me now.

Narattamananda das

Narottamananda  Prabhu:  (obeisances.)  I am shy to speak in front of such a large devotional community.  But Mother Yamuna Prabhu is just such an incredible personality that one forgets everything when given the opportunity to glorify her.

I first chanted Hare Krsna in 1968, I moved into the temple in 1969.  I was a cook for many years, and I always thought, I wished I had of joined in the early days.  Mother Yamuna was a famous cook and pujari, and basically I developed in the same line.  Of course I was very inexperienced and she was the standard.  She was a very unique personality.  In my humble estimation, she is as a individual as important within our society as any other one person, she is important.  As other sannyasis, temple president, the person that cleans the kitchen. Her importance in this society cannot be fully understood.

She was fully from the heart.  She went deep and totally immersed herself and absorbed herself in any service, whether it was cleaning a pot, cooking a preparation, learning about Deity worship, performing Deity worship. She was fully present, fully committed and fully from the heart.  So I would like to read something short that I wrote when I first heard that she left this world.

We have lost a piece of our heart.  A piece of our collective soul.  An inspiration and a guiding light of devotion.  Yamuna devi dasi has taught each of us through her personal example how to render loving service to our Lordships. She is a path breaking kirtaniya and personal assistant to Their Lordships. We have lost a sensitive, contemplative, and deeply loving soul and friend. We have lost a voice that has cried out in longing and love.  It is also deeply ingrained within our hearts and ears every time we take darsana.  That voice, that heart.

Her loving dedication and attention to detail in everything she did is gone from our immediate sight. But not from our collective devotional community spirit and inspiration.  Her rendering service now and in the future.  She did not lead from the front, but her gentle and committed voice and depth of her sincerity, dedication and love for Srila Prabhupada made her stand out to anyone who had the privilege of her association.  She lives eternally in sound and in our hearts and has returned to her dearest Srila Prabhupada. Who can imagine who else is dancing in that kirtan?  Hare Krsna.

Niranjana Swami

 At  Boston Sunday lecture 2011

Thank you everyone for coming here today, (it is Christmas Day so he speaks a little about honoring Christ in Krsna consciousness)

Before I begin speaking today I would like to speak – during this last week, our Krsna consciousness movement experienced the loss of a senior vaisnava, who is one of the early pioneers of the Krsna consciousness movement, and did much to assist Srila Prabhupada in establishing Krsna consciousness in the West, and in India as well.

Her name is Yamuna devi dasi.  She departed and it was a shock to the Iskcon vaisnava community, and I believe we should speak about her because she is popular not only for Govindam Adi Purusam, the song that we sing in every one of our Iskcon temples throughout the world. And we have been ever since the album has been produced. And Srila Prabhupada was so much attracted by it that he requested this song to be heard. To be heard at the time of greeting the Deities – welcoming the Supreme Lord.  I mean, it is a tribute obviously, to the person who sang it, that Prabhupada introduced it as a way of greeting the Deities in our temples throughout the whole world. Our receiving the Lord with that song, that chanted specifically with her singing it.  Sings: Govindam adi Purusam..

Whenever Yamuna used to come and visit different places, where I have seen her, devotees used to ask her to speak, and share some of her realizations of her early days with Srila Prabhupada.

And they would always ask her, “Can you please chant Govindam adi Purusam.?” I have been present on many occasions when devotees asked her to sing that. She was always very – she was the kind of a person who always wanted to be in the background.  Very wonderful quality. Although she had so many good qualities and she had so much association with Prabhupada. She was Prabhupada’s  right hand. In the early days.  Right there serving Prabhupada.

When we hear about Krsna consciousness and how it was started in England. There were six devotees – Mukunda, Janaki, Yamuna, Gurudas, Syamsundar and Malati.

There are different historical accounts that have been written – Mukunda Maharaja’s Miracle on Second Avenue.  A book I highly recommend. Published this year.

It has a lot of those stories in that book. When the Sun Shines.

Also there is a lot about Yamuna in there as well. Also the Prabhupada Lilamrta – many stories of Yamuna, helping Srila Prabhupada both in England and in India.

As I was saying, although she had so many things to share  and she had so much realization from her sacrifices that she made in her life, especially in her youth, serving Prabhupada and assisting him. But she always didn’t want, wasn’t inclined to take a front seat. And devotees would have to encourage her, actually you have so much to give, that is it your duty to serve Prabhupada by sharing it. And when devotees would reason like this, she would agree to speak.

Actually, I was with her earlier in Mumbai. Her health was deteriorating, the doctors at Bhaktivedanta Hospital were treating her.

I came in the room to talk to her. And she said, ‘I don’t like people serving me like this.  I am just an ordinary person.” I talked to her for some time, and then Radhanatha Maharaja came into the room to speak to her and see how she was doing. And  as soon as Radhanath Maharaja got into the room she said, “Maharaja,  please, can we do something about all this service? Look at all the things people are bringing me. All the food people are cooking for me. I am not used to this, I am just a simple devotee. Can we change otherwise I feel like I am going to have to leave under these circumstances.”

That was Yamuna.  It was pretentious at all.  I didn’t see it at all as being pretentious.  It was, if you talk to anyone who knows Yamuna, that is what they will say. That was her nature.

But whenever I would see her, and it was quite frequently , I would see her. In India, in California.  I would always see her wherever there was either a festival with emphasis on kirtan or discussion about chanting. I saw her at a japa retreat in California. She would always, whenever we would meet, she would ask me, “Please share something about the Holy Name with me, anything, Maharaja. Whatever you would like to tell me.  My life, I am getting older, and I realized that I don’t want to waste my older years now. Krsna consciousness, the most important thing is my relationship with Prabhupada and the holy name.”

That was her mood, and she would always look for opportunities. Although it was difficult for her to travel and move around, she would look for opportunities where there was a kirtan retreat, a japa retreat.  Or anything with emphasis on the holy name. She was always there. And again, always iin the background, just trying to absorb and hear and to chant with the devotees.

In fact one time, I remember that, it was in Mumbai. I saw her at a devotee’s wedding. I had come up from Udupi to Mumbai, and she was there.  I sat down to say hello to her.

She was again asking about chanting, share some things about chanting. She was crying. She was thinking that, that is when she made that statement. “There is nothing more important to me, now in my life. Than Prabhupada and the holy name of the Lord.”

And of course it seems like it is not unusual, that when she left, it was unexpected. She was in her room, there were devotees staying with her, and she had got up from bed, and she was sitting in the chair with her japa beads in her hand.  And that is how she was found, chanting. When she departed.

Krsna says, Ante kale ca mam eva smaranam eva kalevaram..

Whoever remembers Me at the time of giving up this body, will attain Me, of this there is no doubt.

So she was sitting and chanting Krsna’s name at the time of her departure.  It is a great loss for our movement .  But we always remember the epitah, He reasons ill who says that vaisnavas die, when thou art living still in sound. Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to spread the holy name around.

So this is the position of a vaisnava.  For the vaisnava it is said, their death it is just simply disappearance from our vision. But she has certainly gone on continuing her service to Srila Prabhupada. Assisting him in expanding the glories of Krsna’s holy name, as she did in this life, of this there is no doubt.

Reads from Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8 verse 5

Translation:  And whoever at the end of his life, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature, of this there is no doubt.

Purport:  In this verse the importance of Krsna consciousness is stressed. Anyone who quits his body in Krsna consciousness is at once transferred to the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is the purest of the pure, therefore anyone who is constantly Krsna conscious is also the purest of the pure.

The words smaranam, remembering are important. Remembrance of Krsna is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Krsna consciousness in devotional service.

Therefore, one should practice Krsna consciousness from the very beginning of life. If one wants to achieve success at the end of his life, the process of remembering Krsna is essential.

Therefore one should constantly and incessantly chant the maha mantra: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

The Lord has advised that one be as tolerant as a tree. There may be so many impediments for a person who is chanting Hare Krsna. Nevertheless, tolerating all these impediments, one should continue to chant: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, so that at the end of one’s life, one can have the full benefit of Krsna consciousness.

So, many important points in this verse and commentary given by Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada is saying that it is very difficult for one to remember Krsna for one who is impure. “Remembrance of Krsna is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Krsna consciousness in devotional service.”

The verse speaks about smaranam. Smaranam. Nine processes of devotional service, Sravanam, kirtanam, Visnu smaranam. Hearing, chanting and then remembering the Lord are the first primary activities of devotional service.

And Srila Prabhupada stated many times that it is very difficult to remember Krsna without hearing and chanting.  Many places in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna describes the characteristics of the mind as very restless, to try to control the mind is more difficult than controlling the wind.

And so much other evidence is given about the necessity to control the mind. One who controls this mind, it is his best friend, one who fails to control the mind, it is his worse enemy. One who conquers the mind, Supersoul is reached, he has attained tranquility, to such a man, heat and cold, happiness and distress, honor and dishonor are all the same.

Krsna also concludes Bhagavad Gita – what should you do with your mind?  Krsna says “You should always think of Me, you should worship Me, offer your homages unto Me, surely you will come to me.”

Mind is very difficult to control, and therefore Krsna gives in the 12th chapter of Bhagavad Gita, He describes different degrees of surrender to Him.  Who is the most surrendered person? The most surrendered person is one who always gives his mind to Krsna.  Most surrendered.

One whose mind is always absorbed in Him. That Krsna considers to be the highest platform.  In fact in the 18th chapter where Krsna says man mana bhavo.. in the next verse He says sarva dharma parityaja, .. Abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Me.  I will deliver you from all sinful reactions.

And in the commentaries of that verse by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, he says that when Krsna says surrender to Me, what He is referring to?  What is this surrender?

He says that the surrender refers to the verse that just precedes it.  All the components of surrender –man mana bhavo mad bhakto – that is surrender.

Sometimes of course we hear surrender, sometimes it is difficult concept to embrace, almost sounds defeatist.  Surrender.  Does it scare you?  Surrender.  When we think of surrender we think I can only surrender at my own pace. And that means, not now.  I am not ready.

And sometimes when circumstances put that surrender to focus, either by forceful preaching of another or by some difficulty that befalls us, and an immediate decision that is required to be made.  Forced upon us, without expectation. we become fearful when we hear that – surrender.

We can surrender in a moment, Khatvanga Maharaja when he heard about his death. Immediately, he just surrendered.  To Krsna, and achieved all perfection.  It can take a moment or it can take millions of births.

So it is usually perceived as an unpleasant event, being forced to surrender.  Therefore Krsna gives us a choice, to voluntarily surrender. Which is superior. That is bhakti. There is forced surrender.  But for one who voluntarily surrenders to Krsna, That is a characteristic of devotional service, that I have chosen to surrender. And therefore Krsna  becomes very indebted, very pleased, very favorably disposed to that person, who voluntarily made a choice – I could have had this for my own  personal benefit, but I chose to do it because it was most pleasing to Krsna. It is a way to become very dear to Krsna.

And what is Krsna saying? When He says surrender to Me?  He says, “Just think of Me.”  He considers that surrender. To always absorb, to have one’s mind absorbed in Him, to be the highest platform of surrender. Just to think of Him. To remember Him.

To consider His wishes, His desires, which are ultimately for our benefit first. A priority. An example that is given, that when we do something to please Krsna, Krsna doesn’t derive any benefit from it. We benefit from it. Just like the person who decorates his or her face in the mirror. Person decorates the face, the reflection is automatically decorated. You don’t have to start with your face and then go to the reflection.

So Prahlada Maharaja uses the example, automatically you are benefitted. What is this surrender?  Think of Me. Consider what would be pleasing to Me?  What would make Me happy?

Devotees who are prepared to sacrifice and surrender in this way, by giving their mind absorbed in thoughts of Him, they actually achieve a state of transcendence that enables them to actually, without any extraneous endeavor to detach themselves.

Vasudeva bhagavati – in the S.B. it says that by rendering devotional service to the Supreme Lord automatically one acquires knowledge and detachment from this world. Without any extraneous effort detachment automatically comes, by becoming attached to Krsna.  Because it is our natural state of being.

So it is not that it is a fearful state, of fearful endeavor, fearful outcome, fearful consequences that will come by remembering Krsna.  It actually, the result is, as described in the Bhagavatam, that engaged always in the thoughts of hearing and chanting and remembering about Me, my devotees won’t suffer from material miseries, because they are always filled with the thoughts of My activities and pastimes in this world.

That is Lord Kapila speaking to Devahuti.  He states, “That if you are always absorbed in thoughts of Me, you won’t suffer. You will be equiposed – happiness and distress – you transcend the dualities of this world because you see everything connected to Krsna. Therefore the consequences of the dualities of this world immediately dissipate.

This is the benefit of always remembering Krsna. But Krsna states in the 12th chapter, that if you can’t fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then what’s the next level of surrender.

Then follow the regulative principles of bhakti yoga, and in this way you will develop  a desire to attain Me.

So Krsna understands that not everybody is not going to be able to give their minds continuously 24 hours a day to remembering Him.  So He says, okay so if you can’t do that, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti yoga.  So what are the regulative principles of bhakti yoga?  That means give some time everyday for remembering.

That is the regulative principles of bhakti yoga.  That is what Krsna is saying, everyday.  So that is what Prabhupada is saying here.  For one who is not practiced in Krsna consciousness, it is very difficult for the impure soul to remember Krsna at the time of death.

It doesn’t just, it is not that just all of a sudden, there is a lightning bolt, and Krsna just reaches down and says, “Alright.”

One actually has to want to be with Krsna. One actually has to be praying to Krsna. “Please protect me from these dualities of the material world.  Protect me from selfish sinful desires. Protect me from the allurements of the material nature. Protect me.  Not by protecting this body, but protect me, because I can’t do it without Your help. You are my source of strength, You are my source of inspiration.”

And this is remembering Krsna. Every day praying like this. Chanting Hare Krsna.  Therefore Prabhupada says,  if one wants to achieve success at the end of life, the process of remembering Krsna is essential.  First it means, everyday. What does that mean?  Therefore one should constantly and incessantly chant the maha mantra:  Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

And Lord Chaitanya has advised that one be as tolerant as a tree.  As Lord Chaitanya has given in His sisksastaka prayers, that one can chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself to be lower than a straw on the street, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In this state of mind one can constantly chant the holy name of the Lord.

One should be as tolerant as a tree. Tree may be drying up, but it never asks anyone for water. This is what it means to be tolerant as a tree. Someone may cut the tree, but the tree will never complain.  Tolerant as a tree.

So one can be so tolerant, only – one can certainly be tolerant to the dualities of this world, and to the tests of this world. But when it is helped by Krsna, when one calls out Krsna’s name. In this way, everyday. And for such a person who practices this every day. It becomes easier to achieve the success which is described in this verse – of obtaining Krsna’s nature, of this there is no doubt.

So we quoted this verse in reference to our dear Godsister, as we explained in the beginning for those who came a little bit later. That certainly she was successful. She was chanting the holy name of the Lord, undoubtedly. And she was very dedicated to the holy name. Not only in chanting it herself, but in assisting Srila Prabhupada in expanding the glories of the holy name of the Lord.  This is a life full in Krsna consciousness and we always lament the loss of such a great soul.

Thank you very much.

Nirmala devi dasi


Yamuna Prabhu impacted my life on this planet like no other person, except for Srila Prabhupada, my spiritual master.  Actually after His departure from this world, it was she who brought me so much closer to His Divine Grace.  Due to her love and devotion to him and her willingness to share that enthusiasm with me, I was eternally blessed. By the grace of God, It was in the mid eighties when I first met my God sisters Yamuna and Dinatarine, during their brief stay at New Vrindavan.  Yamuna spent hours into the night relaying stories about her time with Srila Prabhupada.  It wasn’t just  the stories that affected me so greatly but also her deep, palpable love for him, her total attachment to him and 100% consistent faith in him.   She uplifted and renewed my spiritual life thru her deep love, her unbound enthusiasm and sheer joy for the process of Krishna Consciousness. This was the beginning of a deep friendship that lasted until her departure.

Thru the decades Yamuna was the main spiritual guide, friend, mentor and well wisher for me, my husband and our daughter. Her soulful sprit lives on by what she taught us thru example which was delivered with love.   Her encouragement was profoundly genuine and her joy was infectious to all around her. She was truly a devotee without judgment which created a safe space for devotees, spiritual seekers to express themselves wholeheartedly and honestly, a rare find these days.

To Yamuna prabhu, Krishna Consciousness was a living breathing process and no matter what a person was going thru she found the good and gave encouragement. You felt uplifted in her presence. Yamuna had no airs of superiority even though she was a master of the arts, a very pure devotee, an exceptional human being and one of the first female disciples of Srila Prabhupada.


Yamuna stayed with Devarsi and I in the nineties after an operation to rest and recuperate, we were living in Atlanta at the time.    One day we spent many hours going thru my essential oils. I had practiced aromatherapy for some years and made oils blends for Sri Sri Radha-Banabehari.  As we all know Yamuna was a master at everything she did, all that she did was artistic, her writing, her food prep, sewing, decorating you name she would make it into art.  So we were at the dining room table going thru oils I had collected, mostly for healing purposes. She would smell oil and like a true connoisseur rattle off an elaborate accurate description.  Then there were some select few precious oils used for deity worship and she was so excited to learn about each one.  I would send these to Dinatarine and Yamuna for the pleasure of their lordships.  This, she would get extremely excited about because it was for Krishna.    The level of deity service that she and Dinatarine performed would stun anyone who could enter into that special, personal intimate mood.  Everything was elegant, pure, tasteful, and personal, loving with an artful simplicity that you could really get a sense of what serving God could be like.  We were both in another world absorbed in studying the essential oils together.


A topic that would come up between us over and over thru the years was on self confidence.  We both had issues with this as well as so many other women friend of ours growing up in our movement.  On one such occasion I was expressing my insecurities, she said “stop, I know you; I have seen who you are in your heart”.  It was one of the few times in my life when I experienced such a deep love, compassion and friendship on such a very deep level. This was on a soul level, she meant it and I accepted. It was extremely healing and I will always cherish that.  When she would express what she thought were her own inadequacies, I would express so many thing to her about the “amazing person” I found her to be.  She would laugh and say “your eyes are covered with the salve of love” and they are!

4.    Alachua 2002

In the year 2002 Yamuna was having some serious physical symptoms that were not resolving so she had called my husband and I to talk it out. After hearing everything, Devarsi prabhu felt she needed to do something significant. He said she could use a year away at an Ayurvedic retreat center or something like that.  Somehow or other we all decided on Hippocrates Health Center, right here in Florida.  Devarsi felt like she needed at least 3, 21 days sessions. She thought this was over the top, way too long. However by the time we picked her up on the 63rd day, she wanted to stay until the end of the day to complete all that was available on that day. She said she needed every bit of that time there.

I remember her telling me about her time in the healing mineral water and salt water pools there.  She would rise early and do her swimming/Exercises while it was unoccupied.   She would also chant some of her japa here but mostly she had a most profound time chanting her gayatri there. She said she could meditate on each syllable like never before, she relished this time and was eager for me to share this when I visited her.

During her stay she ended up counseling a young woman in difficulty, talking with the other patients and also meeting Martin Luther King’s daughter, maybe Bernice King, I’m not sure. She had some lunch with her and spoke to her about Krishna.    Anyone that knew Yamuna knows just how personal and friendly she was. She would acknowledge everyone.  Upon the graduation there she sang a Bhajan of Bhaktivinode Thakur and everyone in the room was much moved.

It was in this month of May that she was having her 60th Birthday. My sister, Rangavati drove down to be with her for a day and night.  After taking mostly raw foods for some time, she expressed a strong desire for Dhokla, which we did bring to her.  She relished every bite and was grateful for the Krishna Prasadam. We had kirtan together and talks about our Lord and life.

Physically her symptoms subsided and she was able to have some good years after this.

Yamuna was so expert that soon after learning about raw cuisines she was dreaming up incredible raw food recipes and had a few thoughts of doing a raw book.  When we came back to Alachua she cooked a dinner for our families and Bhakta Henry who was coming for a visit.  She did mostly raw preps that were out of this world. Full time, trained raw chefs would be hard pressed to outdo her preps.     She made a soaked and marinated raw rye, corn and red pepper salad that was exquisitely prepared,red pepper cups with a crème something piped in and a raw blueberry tart. The tart was a visual beauty and the taste and texture “over the top” as she would say. The crust was a nut and date mixture with orange zest, on top were freshly picked organic blueberries, topped with a creamed mixture of soaked macadamia nuts and maple syrup, whipped up like a sweet cream.  She prepared these preps throughout most of the day with our daughter Vani, who was six years old at the time. Yamuna was so much fun and Vani was so excited she couldn’t contain herself. She would teach as she went a long, explaining everything to Vani and shared with her Srila Prabhupada’s cooking instructions. Vani was so excited that she jumped up and blurted out, “this is the best day of my life”. Yamuna told me later that Vani had that special “cooking spark” and said she could count on one hand the times she has seen this.  I don’t know how you see this in a 6 year old but I guess she would know.      Yamuna explained to Vani that instead of throwing out the seeds of the red peppers she could dry them and then plant them, calling Vani  a “seed saver”.  Vani followed this plan and some months later picked her first red pepper, she was so excited to call auntie Yamuna and tell her the news.  (This is the story we have the picture for)

5- Alachua Fl 2002

Yamuna stayed with us for some time after her stay at Hippocrates Health Institute.   On the morning she was to leave, she already had her luggage by the door; I wondered why she had hauled it out herself as my husband would always get her luggage.    We chanted, had some breakfast and took her to the airport.  Upon our return I walked into her room, gazing at a 10 foot banner taped across the entire wall. She had stayed up most of the night writing on this banner with markers in her beautiful calligraphy writing.   It brought tears to our eyes and longing to our hearts.   I saved this banner; in bigger writing she wrote “with all my heart, with my all, Thank-you, I carry you with me always.” Then above and below that she wrote , dear Nirmala, Devarsi and Vani in the wee small  hours before departure , the full spectrum of embracing love, respect , gratitude and honor and continued on with two full  lines across the wall of what she experienced on this visit, like strength, happiness, awareness, breakthrough etc.  So much time and though went into this, so heartfelt and genuine, done with love and gratitude.   One of the many astounding qualities about Yamuna is her gratitude and appreciation.  She didn’t expect anything and appreciated everything!

When we visited her she would  go all out  to make a wonderful stay and we she came  to us for respite we tried to do the same but could never measure up to her impeccable,  creative, Krishna consciousness standard, yet she magnified  out little service as that is what  she did for everyone.  She boosted devotees up to encourage them in their devotional practices.  IF you did some service she would say how much Srila Prabhupada would appreciate that service and you would actually get a glimpse of how she lived her life for Srila Prabhupada.


Yamuna loved kirtan, loved to chant while she was cooking or doing other service. One time when she was visiting us in Alachua, it was our morning ritual to sit on the front porch for morning kirtan. The porch faces east and she would haul a few extra chairs from the back to the front in case someone else would show up.  We would sing together and sometime harmonize; it would be soft, sweet, and melodic. Sometimes we would play instruments and sometimes not. Yamuna loved small, simple and intimate situations and so did I. The sun would be rising and the Holy names reverberating from her soul, from the depths of her being.  Somehow or other because of her advanced stage it would rub off on me, this very neophyte person and we  would get going and  pretty soon she  would call out in her loud famous melodic voice, Gaura, Gaura ,  Gaura. Those moments were some of the most deeply profound times in my Krishna Consciousness due to her soft heart, gentle nature and pure love of Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.  Her message was to practice Krishna Consciousness, relish Krishna Consciousness where ever you were in the world and with whomever you were with, in joyfulness.  Dd



When my sister, Rangavati and I first visited Radha-Banabehari ashram in Saranagati was an overwhelming experience.  Of course whenever I had visited Yamuna and Dinatarine in the many different places they lived it was a transcendental experience but this was more gripping than any other as they designed, and built their ashram according to Vastu shastra. They were off the grid and everything was natural, earthy and pure.  I was captivated; the attention that went into every detail of this little sacred temple resonated with every cell in my body.

We had stopped in Vancouver on our way up and some mutual friend had given us a case of small super sweet mangoes to take to the Ashram.   Yamuna prabhu was happy to receive them and started thinking of ways to offer them.  At this time we both had shared an interest for raw food cuisine.  She came up with a most incredible combination for our breakfast. The mangoes were cut in very small cubes, combined with young, tender moong sprouts, to this she added chopped tarragon, just picked from her herb garden, topped off with freshly squeezed lime juice.  Because I had studied a bit about food combining I was hesitant of the combination, a sweet fruit with a protein, seeing my hesitancy she was teasing me and laughing said “come on Nirms give it a try. So we sat down to this delicacy and visually gorgeous bowl of Krishna Prasadam. She kept looking at me and then I just couldn’t believe how this prasadam was just bursting with layers of flavor and nutrition. It was extraordinary to me and just another creative natural occurrence to her. I was addicted and Yamuna was so excited and happy to see us honor this treat.   This continued to be our breakfast until the mangoes ran out.  To this day I am amazed at her ability to make the ordinary into extraordinary and it is always for Krishna and His devotee’s pleasure.

 Saranagati 8

Visiting Yamuna and Dinatarine at Saranagati was just as purifying and renewing to the spirit as going to India. It seemed for Yamuna she was always a bit hesitant calling it the “no facility zone”.  She said this to me in email, on the phone and when I arrived. It struck me as rather odd because it was the most opulent of settings I had visited them in. The opulence was in the simplicity, purity and devotional mood. Much of our time together was centered around health and healing. Yamuna would visit us for care and restoration and we would visit her for spiritual health and restoration. Since this is what my husband and I do in our lives, when i visited her she would always want to make it a total rejuvenating experience. At Saranagati, I felt enveloped, cocooned, in physical nature that surrounded our little cabin and the ashram and by the sweet, sacred temple room of Sri Sri Radha-Banabehari. Here Mangal arati was the sweetest most intimate heartfelt Mangal arati I have experienced.  Yamuna would play her small soft keyboard, Dinatarine offering arati and whoever else was there playing a very soft drum, tiny melodic chimes, and ever so soft kartals, everyone in appreciation of this truly sublime process of Krishna Consciousness. This is what would make Yamuna ecstatic, to see others relish this process. After Tulasi Puja and japa we would sit for class which was an informal reading and discussion, meant to include every single person that was present.  Yamuna Prabhu always asked may questions, who ever and wherever, so these classes were no exception.  She would always ask, what does this mean to you, what is your understanding of what Srila Prabhupada is saying, how does this relate to you?  It could be a little confronting, however ,because Yamuna was extremely thoughtful and very encouraging to all, most everyone would feel comfortable enough to speak. Something that isn’t always present in our temples.


In the spring of 2011, Yamuna stayed in our compound, next door at my sisters, for several months.  She had just returned from her stay at Bhaktivedanta Hospital.  She was in a state of gratitude almost constantly. She had such a sever health crisis and was still reeling   from that. I would be with her every day, visiting, doing research, chanting or driving her to doctor appointments. Whether we were on the porch, driving in the car or just sitting on her bed, it would feel like the most auspicious place on the planet because of her absorption in Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. We would just sing together, chanting Hare Krishna.  To her K C was a living breathing process at every moment.

Yamuna was extremely personal.  My husband, Devarsi and I drove her down to Melbourne Beach to look at a place for her and Diana to relocate to; we chanted most of the way there and back.   It was a magical day.   We looked at many places and possibilities and in the end Krishna provided a lovely place on the beach.  On the way out of town we stopped for a picnic at a beautiful park where the trees bending down so much appeared to be offering obeisances and we all gave them a hug.  She had packed an amazing lunch that she prepared even though she was not well.  She insisted on serving us. She pulled out of the cooler two kinds of picture perfect mouth watering  galettes,  free form pastries filled with various vegetable combinations.   Along with that she had a few different sauces to top them off.   It was a gourmet lunch in a beautiful surrounding and Yamuna devi was content that Krishna provided a new ashram for her and Dina to bring Their Lordships Banabehari to and an appropriate place to recuperate.

After one such visit we were checking out of our hotel. I went to her room and as we were leaving, in true Yamuna fashion, she turned around and said “thank-you” little room.  On many occasions she would visit us and stay for some time. Upon her departure she would always turn around and say “thank-you little room” “thank-you little ashram.” I would also feel so humbled as she was so acutely aware and present of her surroundings, not taking anything for granted and immensely grateful for whatever facility Krishna would provide.


BY the Lords grace my family and I were able to spend some of the last months of Yamuna’s life with her.   The actual last visit Devarsi and I had with her was just maybe a month or two before her departure in their seaside ashram, on Melbourne beach.    Dinatarine had to leave for a long weekend to help her mother and asked us to come down and spend this time with Yamuna just in case she needed some help.  She looked very radiant actually and was still doing ok at this time and very enlivened.     We had some sweet kirtans in front of Radha-Banabehari, some lovely lunches on the balcony and some very intimate talks. My husband brought his chiropractic table and did some hands on healing care. After that, the energy in the room was very quiet and serene, she spoke a little about her health and leaving.  My husband and I both had tears welling up in our eyes and so did she.  She looked at both of us and said   “I’m ready, I’m ready to go.  Then the tears began flowing and she said with great strength and enthusiasm “I have a bright future, you have a bright future we all have a bright future?   Those were some of the last words she spoke to us in person.   After this we had to leave and were getting ready to go but she called us into her room and we started looking at some old pictures of her with Srila Prabhupada and the devotees in the beginning days. When I told that I had not seen some of them she started telling us stories and soon another two hours flew by.  Her remembrances of Srila Prabhupada were so vivid, like it happened yesterday. It was like she had a photographic memory when it came to His Divine Grace. She would get very excited, transported and of course so would we.  Before we departed she would do her famous kavaca, the three of us standing, locked in a circle with hugs, chanting mantras and respects and an ending prayer for the well wishes of everyone.

Nitai das

I first met Yamuna devi in the winter of 2002 while assisting Karnamrta dasi in an audio recording project she was doing for her university degree.  It was a cold dark winter in the barren tundra of northern canada where they lived, but as I entered their divine abode, the warmth of bhakti quickly overrode any external discomfort.  Their simple straw bale home was the perfection of srila prabhupada’s vision for simple living in the rural country.  Built according to the highest standard of vastu, the temple space filled about 30% of their home.  Elaborate devotional woodwork, glasswork, and metalwork filled the space with mantra’s, prayers, and spiritual designs which seemed to extend itself in all directions.  It seemed to have maha prasdam of different sorts embedded into the walls and corners.  Prabhupada’s shoes, his brass cooker, a doorknob from one of the rooms at Radha Damodar temple, and various other branches, leaves, dust and sacred elements from the dhama.  Their ashram itself radiated Vrindavan.

I visited Saranagati another 6 times , and also met her in mumbai, vrindavan, and mayapur during the last several years.


Her beautiful deities of Sri Sri Radha Banebihari shined so majestically on their altar.  Yamuna and Dina were always absorbed making new backdrops, new outfits and paraphernalia for their lordships.  It was so clean, and the beauty of the deities was so enhanced by there constant attention and desire to perfect their worship.  It invoked strong desires of anyone who came into there presence to offer seva.   Radha Banebihari were personally given to Yamuna by Srila Prabhupada at the time that her husband Gurudas took Sannyasa, in which she asked prabhupada…What should I do now?  Prabhupada replied that she should take these dieties and should marry Krishna.  Certainly her 36 years of absorbed daily worship is an amazing accomplishment of her discipline and sincerity in seva in the western world.

She wrote this point to me recently after-

I will always relish the memory of your quick appreciation for Sree Sree Radha Banabehari. It is a sign of your considerable spiritual bank account at this stage in your life. Every time we focus on japa in the near confines of the archa vigrahah form of the Lord, we make giant steps toward pure devotional service. Yet, we must learn to chant anywhere.


Chanting Japa in her presence was like getting hit by a lighting bolt.  My taste in the holy names was so surcharged by her presence that it impacted my life more than any other experience in my devotional lifetime.  She grabbed my arm and brought me in front of her deities and said this is Banebihariji.  How do you like them?  She sat me down in front of them and said that this is a very special zone.  You chant right here as it is a very magical place.  She would chant right behind me in her rocking chair, yet her japa was musical.  It was like one long beautiful kirtan.  Every mantra, every name there was so much relishing and so much taste, that my own voice would just fade away as it was so enchanting to just listen to hers.  Her home was always vibrating the holy name…from one corner to the next..there was no apparent stop.  Kirtaniyah Sada Hari.

Morning Program

Every morning they were up early before mangal arotik chanting japa.  Several times I was at the morning program alone with them at 5am, they would rotate singing and offering arotik.  They would dance enthusiastically around Tulasi and then would go back deep into japa as the sun would rise behind the palatial altar of Banebihari enhancing his beauty with the fresh rays of morning light.

On the other hand, at Banabehari Mandir we have been increasing spent with japa, studying, or morning class, deity service, kirtans, bhajans, one on one prasad distribution, and tiny observances of most every festival on the calendar—–and finding immense joy in trying for these things. Experiencing an increasing presence and simultaneous separation of our Guru Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada. That zone we sat in, in the rocking chairs when you were here, is hot. 



On Vaisnava Festivals hearing and chanting would expand exponentially.  They would read deeply into the lives of the Vaisnava Acaryas and absorb themselves throughout the day in cooking, devotional bhajans, and other devotional activity.  They would engage whoever entered there ashrama in participating in the days activities.


Her mastery of this art was greatly enhanced by her deep absorbtion in prayer.  She would have us all chant together focused a series of guru pranam prayers, and the whole meditation of cooking was a very serious endeavor.  There was no small talk or chit chat unless it was a question directly related to the preparation you were assisting with.  Most of the times I assisted it wasn’t a major holiday.  She would send emails of the feasts  and the festival outline they would have for Gaura Purnima, Janmastami, etc.

Here is part of a letter from Srila Prabhupada’s Dissapearance day feast in 2003

As a preamble: Twenty six years ago a group of saintly souls sent Yamuna SP’s brass cooker. Since then, as far as possible, on his appearance or disappearance days, I/we at Sree Radha Banabehari Mandir try to prepare his noon meal with his brilliantly shining cooker. 

All these years Iwe have done this alone. But this year, as a noon program had not been arranged by others, and Srila Prabhupada clearly wished this to happen on such days, I invited any interested in the valley to come to Sree Radha Banabehari Mandir.and cook for Srila Prabhupada in his cooker.

In advance I requested only that anyone interesting in tasting this experience should do two things: be prompt and wear clean cloth. For late comers, I explained with a note at the door, that today, we would all go back in time to physically cook for Srila Prabhupada. No talking save for service. Full mood of prayer to somehow attentively prepare the meal in such a way as it would bring him pleasure. Try for full focus, clear, pure, honest, rich, quality, loving devotion.

We began by standing in front of Sree Sree Radha Banabehari, recited the Om Agana Prayers, and individually prayed to engage in this service with full attention and devotion.

Washed hands, feet and mouth, and immediately set out to prepare dishes to place in the tiered steamers. Engagements included immediate cutting of vegetables, preparing the wood stove, assembling masala mextures for toasting and grinding, grinding fresh paste masalas, ginger and chili pastes, stem fresh herbs, and make chapati doughs.

As 13 people ended up coming, our tiny ashram kitchen and preparation area was filled to the brim. Set up pens and paper to take notes.  Used two steamers, Srila Prabhupada’s cooker and a 14-inch in diameter three tiered steamer with small steel inserts.

Menu for SP’s Cooker: :

Bottom: Gingered Whole Moong Dal with Tomato and Fresh Garam Masala.

Center: : Cubed Eggplant and Yellow Bell Pepper chunks to be made into Sweet and Sour Eggplant, recipe in LKC

Top: Steamed Potato to later be pan fried with hing, ginger, chilies, haldi, tej patta, Salt and Pepper, Lime Juice, Cilantro

Large Steamer:

Bottom: Barely Sprouted ChickPeas cooked and finished off with a Cilantro-infused South Indian Coconut Chutney (Sprouted chickpeas cook wonderfully in 45 minutes in steamer cuisine)

Center Tier: Three individual tiffins one with Dilled Zucchini; one with shukta ingredients; one with cauliflower florets in an almond broth.

Top: Plain double steamed rice. (Soaked rice overnigh. Drained, prepared in separate pot at a ratio of 1 part rice to 1-1/3 part water. Amazing long fluffy grains cooked to perfection.

Steam it all for 40 minutes on just the right heat.

Meanwhile, prepare garam masalas, panir chapati dough and plain chapati dough with freshly milled flour, prepare plate with lime slice, two kinds of freshly milled pepper, two kinds of salt. Fry karela slices. Bowl of plain yogurt.

In precisely 1-1/2 hours the plate was ready to offer. While SP ate, we sang bhoga arati, recited gayatri, chanted japa, then kirtan.

Then Puspa flower offerings. Then Guru Puja at noon sharp.

As often happens when intent is genuine, sincere, these prasadam dishes beautiful to look at, fragrant in diverstiy, infused with goodness, blessed by Srila Prabhupada’s touch–all this and much more. Magic.

 Then all present respected tastes of the meal in sweet silence, absorbed in relishing, concentrated on the mercy of this simple offering of love from the assembled devotees.

 Honoring Prasadam

In the late summer the preparations that she would make were primarily out of her garden as they were really excited about trying to serve banebihari with as much locally produced and prepared offerings.  I remember her making this dressing with a myriad of fresh herbs and spices and when we were honoring lunch that day she had so much joy relishing the prasadam….just licking and sucking every last drop off of her plate and she was just overwhelmed with emotion how good this prasadam was.  I would just sit back awestruck that somehow I had the fortune to even have a small taste of someone who could cook with this level of devotion.


One of the first gifts I gave was an Mp3 CD player and a few dozen CD’s as these were the days before iPods were on the market.  They listened to hundreds of lectures that I kept sending.  They would relish and would keep asking for more Radhanath Swami lectures.

First, Thank You big time for the MP’-3 feast. We are full fledged addicts for these MP’3s. They are like water for a dying man in the desert. 


They were listening to the 2002 Vrindavan Yatra lecture series, which is around 40 hours of lectures and they were listening on and off for several months.  When they got to the last lecture they were overwhelmed by the story of Ghana Shyam Baba and were deeply inspired as they thought that this lecture would be a great  reintroduction for her sister Janaki, who hadn’t been so involved in Krishna Consciousness in many years.  I sent the CD of that lecture to Janaki and it invoked a response out of her that she was finally beginning to understand  the deep meaning of selfless devotion and it inspired her to go and meet Radhanath Swami the following year when he visited the area.

The thing that impressed Yamuna the most when she first started associating with Radhanath Swami in 2001 was when he with heartfelt concern asked her “How is Janaki?”.  She was overwhelmed by his level of genuine concern and attention, for her dear sister, who was a vital assistant to Srila Prabhupada when he first started in New York.  She would visit chowpatty several more times and it was one of the only places she really felt comfortable giving a lecture or leading a kirtan.  Once when I was also there in chowpatty she kept calling me to do different services for her.  One desire that they had was for me to get some water that had bathed Radhanath Swami’s feet.  Now this is not that easy to obtain as maharaja is extremely reserved and even at his Vyasa Puja he pulls his feet back after about 7 seconds allowing barely 1 liter to bathe his feet.  The time of year that they were asking was a month of so after his vyasa puja so, essentially I thought it would be like searching through a desert.

I went and asked some of the powers that be in management to see if there was any stored in a vault and surely enough he had a whole liter and said here take whatever you want.  I just remember bringing it back to their room and all of us diving over this bottle I had acquired with such enthusiasm.  We all became intoxicated just looking at volume.

 Prasadam Distrubution

In 2009, I visited Australia to learn how they had expanded their prasadam operation deep into the local festival culture.  A few months later I was in Vrindavan and I brought Ajita Prabhu,  the spearhead of the Australian outreach with me to meet with Yamuna.  She was very excited about his desire to not compromise on the quality of prasadam and she kept encouraging him that Srila Prabhupada was so happy with this service.  She was interested in all the mechanics of large-scale prasadam distribution and was always asking me for photos and descriptions of various places I had been and how they were doing it.

 The Society

She would always show concern  and ask me questions on how older devotees would portray Srila Prabhupada or the history of iskcon.  She would show great attention to the iskcon youth and encourage them to not only lead a great kirtan, but to go deeply into the practice of sadhana as there is so much more to a kirtan when going after a pure taste. She was never concerned so much as how big a project or service was but always showed concern and interest how the inner mood of devotion was developing within our hearts.  Repeatedly she would emphasize that if we didn’t absorb ourselves in the 9 processes of bhakti then whatever activity we would perform may be less effective in the eyes of the lord.

Last Visit

Last January in Mumbai  when she was in the hospital she emailed me several times asking me to help her get various organic spices and vegetables around mumbai and there were only 2-3 stores in the whole city that carried anything of this nature.  We went with another devotee, shopping throughout the city for her long list.  A few days later we visited her in the hospital and most devotees led me to think that I wouldn’t be able to stay there for much more than an hour, as her condition was sensitive.  About 8 hours later, I finally left after several kirtans, other guests and many heartfelt conversations.  I helped her secure a first class flight back to the USA using my air miles  as she really needed to have maximum comfort.

What an ecstatic email. Gives me goosebumps. And big smiles.

Prasad Distribution Keejay. I am so enlivened hearing something about this quality of determination, expertise and execution.

Keep us in touch when you might make it down here. The floor is a soft soft bed, the beach waiting for your feet on a morning japa walk with Dina, what to speak of the ocean of mercy at the doorstep.

-Yamuna July 2011

Yamuna embodied Srila Prabhupada’s deep desire and vision to transplant vaisnava culture into american soil.  She exemplified the highest character of devotion and never once hesitated in her service to guru and Krishna.

Prahladapriya das

Dear Yamuna Devi

With Gratitude and Affection,

That’s how you always signed your letter, cards, and gifts to me. This left a profound mark upon me. I am blessed and fortunate to have known you. You changed my life in ways that few others have. Your life was a myriad of service to Our Beloved Spiritual Master. Your love for Srila Prabhupad was palpable. By your kindness and mercy, for some years, you allowed me to accompany you on your journey in devotional service. Your association enriched me, enlightened me, opened doors materialy and spiritually that would never have been opened, increased my faith, and have left a legacy not only for me , but so many. I am proud to have received your guidance and instruction as my senior. It felt like you knew me and understood my heart. You treated me like a little brother. I felt special in your company. You have givin me many gifts during the time we spent together. Long ago you gave a small statue that originally belonged to your Aunt. It had been passed on to you. It had been in your family for years. I was deeply touched. I see it every day and it always reminds me of you. Another gift will always be dear to my heart. After three years of working everyday to finish the cookbook it was finally ready to go to press. I traveled to Kingsport Tennesee, where the printer was. I studied the printing proofs and gave the OK. At the end of that day, the printer told me that it was traditional to hand bind a single luxury copy . Generally it was bound in leather. Of course we could not do that, so the book was bound in a very nice brown cover. I could not wait to put it into your hands. When I returned and handed you the book. Your eyes lit up. Immeadeatly you proceeded to present the book to Srila Prabhupad. You carefully and lovingly turned each page for Prabhupad to see. I recall mentioning that you needed to keep this particular copy somewhere safe as someday it might be used for historical purposes. Once you were finished, you did something that I never expected. You sat at the desk and began to inscribe the book and handed it back to me. As I opened it I saw how you had written a personal note of thanks to myself and Yogeswara Prabhu.

Then you instructed me to keep the book. I have that book and hold it dear.

One day in New York City, we were hard at work trying to complete your opus offering, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine”. We were discussing morning Sadhana. Suddenly, in the middle of the conversation- it struck me like Lightning – I can only greet one set of Deities, in one temple room, once a day. You on the other hand would be greeting all of the Deities, in ever temple room, ever morning, and will forever. That’s how powerful your love for Srila Prabhupada was. When I told you this you appeared somewhat surprised. I don’t think it had ever occurred to you. If it had it certainly didn’t show. Your response was. “I will be happy to greet Srila Prabhupad every morning”. That says it all about you. I have so many fond memories of you and our loving god-sister Dina Taruni. To both of you I say- Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Not having your physical association will leave a vacuum for so many. The grief too profound to put into words. But again by your devotion – whenever we hear Govindam or read Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, We will have your association. Thank you for making so many sacrifices in your lifetime to see that not only will Srila Prabhupadas memories be preserved, but so will yours. Please forgive me for my offences. I pray you will! We will all miss you.

With Gratitude and affection

Your God-brother , your servant ,your well wisher, your friend

Prahladpriya das

Rangavati devi dasi

 Saranagati Ashram

The contagious joy and enthusiasm of the BanabiHari mandhir , came from the strong hearing and chanting done by Yamuna and Dina along with guests and friends.

Life felt deeper and grander in Yamuna’s world, she was a powerful force of nature. Her presence spoke volumes of the days she spent with Srila Prabhupada, her absorption of his message and the need to pass this on to others  rang out  loud and clear.

The sheer creativity of the ashram created an ambiance of meaning and love from her years of service and enlightenment.  Each detail meticulously tended to and an overall sense of devotional refinement.

The sweet quiet mangal arotika,  were Yamuna would play her small keyboard as her mesmerizing voice filled the brama mahurta hours with  devotion.

The light footsteps that honored the tulasi  plant which stood in a beautifully painted pot by Kim Waters.  The gentle flames glowing from the tea candles on the window sills in the black night.

Large and suitable seating provided a comfortable place to chant japa, the singing sound that vibrated from her as Yamuna chanted the maha mantra with attention and love.

Banabi Hari Srimad Bhagavatam classes were inclusive and after the verse and purport were read each visitor was asked “what did that mean to you?” Yamuna would have her head resting on the back of her chair as she listened to every word and reacted with a variety of expressions, comments, encouragement or praise.

Everything that was chewed, licked up and tasted at Yamuna’s table was a loving exchange which penetrated  thru the material covering of this world.  As we sat around the table we spoke on many topics, both large and small with great relish as wisdom flowed from her transcendental heart and mind.

Yamuna loved a good topic and a sound philosophical journey.

I felt loved and cherished around her and yet insignificant the perfect balance of vaisnava behavior.


Yamuna’s stay in Alachua at our home/ashram was short and so sweet.  Her three months went by to quickly for me, who loved every second of her gracious and transcendental  self.

We spent time in the kitchen like two children playing with different ingredients , I nicked name her “Ranni”,  as she flowed like a summer breeze combining  Krsna’s wonderful bounty.

Only after chanting “om ajnana-timirandhasya” would she touch a utensil  or a vegetable ,sometimes holding my hand as she gave her respects.  Grace and loveliness were here constant companions.  The likes of her genius and uniqueness  were a new experience to my simple self.   I loved her humor and we found ourselves laughing on many occasions.  On more then one occasion we laughed to tears, she said” I can’t  remember when I laughed this hard.

Always the artist and merciful self she would prepare a late night meal for Jitari and I after work accompanied with a little love note.  It took some doing to get here to stop this as I felt so sad seeing how she would struggle on her feet.  Once she arranged the fridge while I was out and it looked like a piece of art work, totally beautiful.

It sounds odd but I liked myself more in her presence , perhaps she was pulling me up from the material pool and helped me to believe in the bliss of the soul.

As we sat at the dinning table watching the cardinals on their feeder, she said “Srila Prabupada would have liked it her and he would ask all about the trees, birds, and surroundings.  That  meant a great deal to me, and it felt like Srila Prabupada was there in that moment.

Although very, very ill, more then we knew she never fussed or complained about her condition.   At this point in time she would say “we are free falling”, her Saranagrati ashram was no longer a place she could reside, and her health was gone.

Witnessing her strong and unflinching faith in Krsna and Srila Prabhupada hit me very dramatically.  Fixed and determined each day she soldiered on thru those unknown waters.

Missing her is difficult knowing that no one can fill her slippers.

So grateful to have known you dear Yamuna devi.  A more merciful and compassionate devotee I could not find to have been a mentor  and friend.  My love and gratitude are will you always.

Rtadvaja Swami

RTADVAJA MAHARAJA:   (Obeisances)  My contact with Mother Yamuna began with a phone call from a dear friend, Mr. Henry Scholcauff.  I think this was maybe 1994, I don’t remember the exact date. But Henry Scholcauff and I were very close friends and he called me and he said, “Maharaja, Yamuna Prabhu and Dinatarini Prabhu want to move into my house.  They don’t have a place to live anymore and I just need some advice, should I let them live in my house.” So I told him, “It would be your very good fortune to have such devotees living under your roof, and taking shelter of your facility.”  So he said, “I don’t know, I don’t usually live with anybody.”  He is a bachelor, he lives by himself and he has a very large house, maybe eight bedrooms and five bathrooms.  Two apartments.  And I said, “Henry half the time you travel on vacation. So if it doesn’t work out after a few weeks, or months, just go on vacation. Or just make a six month agreement that you will have trial program, and after that if it is working out you can extend it, and if it is not, you can say six months is over, hari bol.”  So I think they were there two and a half or three years.  It was quite a long time that they lived there. And Bhakta Henry prabhu didn’t charge them any rent.  He just facilitated their program.

Is this being recorded or is this private?  Okay. Well I will say it anyway.

So anyway, the arrangement was Yamuna as many know, is a very first class person.  Everything has to be first class.  And she wanted to take her Dieties out and worship them, Radha Banabehari. And the house had to get a little bit fixed up. By the time it was over, Bhakta Henry had spent $150,000. To get things in order.  And he has basically become, or had been for many, many years, one of her first siska disciples.  He very much took shelter of Mother Yamuna.  Me, being a friend, of Bhakta Henry, I would visit several times a year, and then Dinatarini Prabhu and Yamuna Prabhu. (Sometimes I am not sure what to say, Mataji, Prabhu, Srimati….)  So I had constant contact with her over the years.  At that time I was running a boys asrama in Alachua. So some time in 1996 or so, she came to Alachua for a visit.  And I asked her to please come and speak to the boys.  And she said she would be very, very happy to come. So she comes to the house where the school is. And the boys are having kirtan outside to receive her. And she looking around, a little uneasy, but in stride.  And then we gave her a place to sit, and two of the young boys came, one with a bowl, and one with a pitcher or rose water, rose petal water to bathe her feet.  And she looked at me and said ‘Rtadvaj Swami, knowing you as I know you, I should have known this was going to happen in the beginning, but I got caught by surprise.”  But she allowed the boys to bathe her feet. And then after that, sprinkle the water on everybody’s  head. So we are one of the few that got the, what do you call it?  Carnamrta, of Mother Yamuna’s lotus feet.  Hari bol!  And the boys.

She spent at least two, three or four hours, telling Krsna conscious stories of Prabhupada, and just preaching to the boys for hours and hours and hours.  And it went on.  It was such an impact on the young men, that to this day many of them are associated with her in one way or another.  I just wanted to let everyone know that little snippet of Yamuna’s life of being in Washington, D.C., and as they explained, there are difficulties in life, and they didn’t know where they were going to go, and Krsna sent them to a very special person, at a very special time, and he is a very strong devotee now by her association.  He said that she made him wake up every day for mangal aratik.  And at the end of mangal aratik he would have to sing the Nrsmhadeva prayers.

So, as being told, it was a very hit to the heart when we got the news of her passing, but at the same time, there was no question in my mind, as many say, that there is nowhere else she could go but Prabhuapda.  Nowhere else.  And wherever that is, that is the best place anybody could possibly be.  So thank you very much.  Hare Krsna.   Mother Yamuna Prabhu Mataji Srimati ki jai!

Rupa devi dasi

When I first met Yamuna and Dina in New Vrindavan, I was a tunnel-visioned, grossly result oriented neophyte, highly influenced by principles of personality cultism, and an end justifies the means attitude.

Yamuna’s profoundly intelligent, personally qualified and devotionally complete lifestyle, and openly warm reciprocations with devotees, both revealed these impersonlizations of spiritual life for what they are; but also emphasized by example, the inseparable necessity for the real qualities of spiritual life to be established in order to honestly and purely pursue devotional life in truth.

Besides this wide opening illumination, was the amazing depth of presence one felt for Srila Prabhupad when you got to be with Yamuna. It was self-evident that her whole life in all its aspects were wrapped in Prabhupada’s values, examples, remembrance and teachings without any ulterior motives.

I learned a lot from Yamuna and Dina, and not just how to make a flower vase, but what it really means to be a Vaishnava from the inside out.

Saudhamani devi dasi

Hare Krsna  Speaking after the young people from Saranagati, is sort of like the devotees going to Vrndavana and thinking they are going to speak about Krsna to the gopis or something.  Because it is like the young lady was saying, we didn’t really know who Yamuna was, and I suspect you didn’t really care, you just loved her.

So I don’t have that intimate relationship with her, but I did love her very much.

My first association came in the form of a letter that she was asked to write.  It arrived in Philadelphia.  It as supposed to go all over the movement  Either late 72 or 73.  I should have brought a copy.  And she had been asked  to write about how to bathe the Lord.

I had been worried about that, because I was a new pujari.  Our Deities were installed with about twenty minutes warning.  Lord Jagannath and I was given many instructions and things, many of them wrong. But I was trying to follow.  And one of the things that really disturbed me was that I was told every Ekadasi, to bring Lord Jagannath off the altar, and bathe Him with yogurt. And then you put Him back on the altar.

And it seemed like it was not good for the paint, you know what I mean. It didn’t seem good for the Lord.  So I decided to stop doing it.  Even though I was told this was what I was supposed to do as the pujari.  But it just seemed like why would a pujari do something that was hurting the Deities?

So I had a big anxiety about that.  So just when I stopped doing that, the letter came from Yamuna. I can only paraphrase.  First she said, “Please don’t take what I am saying is the only way to worship the Deity.  Don’t think there is only one way to worship the Deity.”

And then she described what she did.  How she had taken a pot that was shiny, and then with a ladle had poured the water on the reflection of the Deities. Chanting Hare Krsna.  And she said, it seemed to be pleasing with the Lord. The Lord seemed to be pleased with it.

This was not only giving me a good idea of properly how to bath the Lord without having His paint come off.  But I think it was really the beginning of my devotional life.  So I am very grateful for that.

I would say that, I know that Prabhupada definitely planted the seed of bhakti.  He planted it really deep inside, so it is a good thing that he put it deep in my heart so it couldn’t be washed away really quickly. And with the help of my husband, I did water it , but I don’t think it was really growing or sprouting or anything. And I think that it was pleasing to the Lord.

It was kind of like, if you planted a tulasi or something you can plant the seed, you can put the water.  But eventually you need some sunshine. And it was just like those words, not so much the words.  Kind of like how  Radhanath Swami was saying when he first spoke. That Yamuna got to the essence.

So the essence came through of loving the Deity. The bhakti. And that was like the ray of sunshine that helped sprout that seed. So that was my first association and probably the most important.

So in 1975, when I came to the Mayapur festival. I was still a pujari, and I was given a lot of special mercy in Mayapur, a lot of realization.  But I was so looking forward to coming for the installation of the Deities here.  As much because I thought finally I will be able to meet Yamuna in person.

And I had heard how she had prepared everything. The jewels for the Deities, the crystals came from Austria. The thread came from England, because the thread breaks in India. Everything was the most beautiful, the best quality.  Everything was to be absolutely stunningly wonderful.

And I had already heard this.  So I wanted to see, and meet inperson and offer my obeisances to the person who had arranged this. And when I got to Vrndavan at the festival. I immediately inquired, ‘Oh where is Yamuna?”  And the devotees told me, “Oh she left a few days ago, or some time ago,” I don’t remember. And I said, “Oh but she arranged everything.  The Deities, the clothes. Everything>” And they said, yes but it would be too much to see what everybody was going to do with them.

You know, because anyone who has been involved in any kind of Iskcon project, I don’t mean to say this to mean anything negative about Iskcon. But I do remember one year somebody made all these bead bags and they went all over the movement, and they were misspelled, and it said Iskoon, instead of Iskcon.

We love it with a few mistakes here and there.

So she had left Vrndavana and wasn’t there for the instillation, so I was disappointed in that sense. But I was able to see, and go down into the pujari area and see everything besides and also to be here for the wonderful installation

And in fact yesterday morning, when I was coming over for the magal aratik at Prabhupada’s Samadhi, I could see into the temple room.  And I saw  Prabhupada’s vyasasana all decorated so beautifully. And I could see that there was a picture.  So I thought, “Oh, someone decorated Prabhupada’s vyasasana, and probably a picture of Yamuna. Somebody was sitting right by there. And it just struck me it was so stunningly beautiful. And I just caught a glimpse, because I didn’t want to be late, because I was getting closer every day to being on time.

So I got to Prabhupada’s Samadhi just as the curtain opened. And that was more stunning.  It was so beautiful. With the orchids at the bottom hanging down, and the two vases. Kind of like Victorina style, where everything is symmetrical, in all ways, with the lilies a certain way, the roses a certain way. And I just thought it is just so astectically so beautiful and perfect, and it felt like something Yamuna would really love.

I did Iater once visit and stay over at her house and go with her in New Vrndavana when her Deities were first installed, she had Them there for a little while. She let me go in the Deity room when she was bathing and dressing Them.  That was also very wonderful.

I began to see in more detail, just more than the outlines, of how everything should be as beautiful, as clean, as wonderful, everything the very best possible for Krsna. And I thought, “Wow.  The Samadhi is like that.  The morning of her disappearance, this is so perfect.”

Fortunately, Visakha, I learn so much from her, she is one of my heroes. She showed me how, we had permission, we could go up close to the altar, behind the rope. So that morning I took advantage of learning that from her, and when the curtains opened, and there was Krsna Balarama.  And when I saw those Deities, and how beautifully They were decorated.  I thought it was like Krsna had sent Vrnda devi herself to direct everything. Just so Yamuna could be there.

I thought that she couldn’t be here for Their installation in 1975,  and there were many things out of order.  But everything was just perfect, to her standard. Especially like chocolate coloured outfit that Krsna Balarama were wearing, and all the colours just blending properly. And matching. And little touches, like a blue chaddar. No other blue, just around Krsna Balarama’s feet. But the same blue in those little chaddars that were around the pictures. And I am the same, I see the detail.  But that is how I felt. Like that it was such a special day and everything was just to her standard, and it made me very happy. And I felt like she was just there.

So I have a request.  Maybe it has happened, maybe it hasn’t.  But in the year 2000, Yamuna and I and some other godsisters, we were asked to speak at the GBC, and we did. And that year they had these different courses that you can take, at a certain time.  Different people would teach different things.  And for whatever reason, I don’t know why, Yamuna had wanted to teach a class about chanting in the Samadhi, singing. And like some of the girls from Saranagati were taking about.  She wanted to do it in the round.  And she explained to me that partly it had to do with the acoustics in the Samadhi there.  The acoustics here in Vrndavana, there is so much intricate carving, that you can have many many people singing, and it is just really nice.  It is like a great opera house or something. The acoustics.

But the acoustics in Mayapur are different. That is okay, but you get echoes and things, so sometimes it is a little difficult. But I could see Yamuna’s point.  It would be very interesting to see it in the round, which might be very kind of appropriate for Lord Chaitanya’s land.  Because you have so many voices, and they will begin to echo.  I don’t know if everyone knows what it means to do it in the round. Iwould sing Hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare  and then you would come in, when I go into hare rama, you would come in and you can have two three four groups, coming in the round

And if it has not happened there, it should because if you have  ever been with Yamuna for singing, she has an incredible sense of sound, and chanting.  I don’t know whether it was true or not , think it is true, but I was told by a few people, that Prabhupada said she had the ability to bring the sound vibration down from the spiritual sky And that is how I felt.

The last time I chanted with her in person, was at Bhaktivinode’s house.  She chanted there, and we sang. So if anyone has any influence, any power, any abilities.

I  would like to hear about the chanting of the hare krsna maha mantra in the round in Mayapur.  Because she wanted that – so on her special time, we should take advantage to use that as an influence to fulfill her k

Thank you very much, Hare Krsna.

Oh, always me, I never know when to stop. I do want to say, is that what I most admired in Yamuna was her reverence.  Reverence, not just the Deity, which you know is perhaps eternally, kanistha adhikari, that is about as far as  I can get, but she had reverence for every person and even seemingly material things. Everything, I think she understood how everything belonged to Krsna. And not just understood, but had that realization, so that reverence to me was her most amazing quality.  Perhaps that is  the one I need more of.

So thank you very much.

Hare Krsna.

Shyam Kishore das

 At Vrindavan 2013 memorial

Hare Krsna.  So I have had the inconceivable good fortune of being in Mother Yamuna’s presence, many times, a number of times.  I wouldlike to share perhaps several remembrances, which from her perspective may be quite uneventful, but from a personal point of view are very meaningful.

And penetrating.  When I was a young boy, her Grace Yamuna devi, had at that time, Mukunda had moved the Iskcon communications headquarters to Washington D.C. where I had been staying. And at this particular occasion, Mukunda Maharaja had come over to my parents house, and mother Yamuna and Dinatarine Mataji came along to my parents house,  and this sanga was especially remarkable.  And it made such a deep impression on me. Because of the depths of the katha that was taking place. And I remember even to this day, I remember the topic which was being discussed.  It revolved around the subject of the necessary qualification, the necessary qualification for entering the spiritual abode was not to have a drop of envy.

The way that the topic was being discussed, with such depth and personal presence, and profound realization, made such a deep impact  on me, that for many, many days, months that turned into years, I always reflect upon that conversation.

I believe it was at that time, I was just very much in the background and I was just very uch absorbing the presence of Yamuna devi.  But somehow the topic came to me, being a table player, and having had dents or repairs on tablas, so immediately Yamuna asked me if I could repair her mrdnga.

A clay mrdnga, because there was a piece in the clay mrdnga that was rattling. So actually I had never repaired a mrdnga, and never  even knew what was the first thing to do to repair it.  But somehow, I had the inspiration to say, “Yes, I can repair it.”

So I believe it was shortly after, she came over again, with Dinatarine mataji, I don’t believe Mukunda maharaja was there at that time.  And she brought the mrdnga.  But what made such a deep impression on me was the way she carried the mrdnga, and she brought the mrdnga to our house.  It was as if it was her child or her baby, or even a limb.

And as soon as she came in, it was right down to business.  We were in the mud room, and she took off her shoes, and she sat down, right in the mud room. And she had this mrdnga, and she was showing it to me, the mrdnga, this is the problem, and do you think you can fix this. So, but what really made the impression on me, was how much this mrdnga meant to her. I just, even to this day, how much attachment she had for this mrdnga.

For the next one or two weeks, I spent four to five hours, undoing this mrdnga and the straps, and redoing it, and taking out the pieces that were in there. It was an incredible meditation for me, very sweet and sublime. And the entire time, what was fueling my inspiration and enthusiasm for this service, was her attachment and her love for this particular instrument.

It was around this same time that she located to Washington D.C. for a period of time, that I had the opportunity to hear from her, amongst a number of devotees in the area.  I believe it was a Bhagavatam class in the temple, and I remember it really struck me, because I never ever heard a Bhagavatam class like that. It was from beginning to end, every sentence, was glorification, praising, it was appreciating.  It was so unlike any other lecture I had ever heard at that time.

I was thinking, is this a Bhagavatam class?  Is this what  – I didn’t quite understand the meaning.  But it really reflected so much about who she was.  That is the only thing that I have experienced, is appreciation and encouragement and glorification.

And lastly, I had the great opportunity and privilege of residing for a few months at Saranagati, where she lived for many years  And she offered to the devotees, to come whenever they wanted to the morning program.  Dinatarine and Yamuna made their home a place where devotees could come in the morning. And the feeling that I felt when I entered the asrama, many times there was no one there, except for me, because they had the program every day, and devotees didn’t come every day. But the sentiment. I really felt in their hearts, what I felt from my point of view, was that they were beggars. And when I entered into the door, I felt that it was a dream come true that someone had come to their asrama, because the only thing that meant anything to them was to be able to give Krsna bhakti to others.

So in that space I felt like a million bucks.  Like I was everything for them, in the world, I just came to the morning program.  The one particular occasion, there was an extended japa period.  I heard Yamuna devi chant japa in a way that I have never heard anybody chant japa. I am not sure that others have had this experience, or if others have talked about this.

It must have been for an entire hour, she was chanting japa, but it was not chanting, it was singing.  But it wasn’t exactly singing.  It was just very elongated going up and down, just chanting Hare Krsna, with eyes closed and tears flowing from her eyes.  It must have taken thirty seconds for each mantra. 25 seconds

So, thank you so much.

Hare Krsna.

Suresvara das

My Dear Yamuna Mata,

Please accept my humble obiasences. All glories to our lord and master, Srila Prabhupada.

Every day that passes since you left this mortal world, we miss you more and more. Though we still sing along with you when we greet the deities each morning, we are sorry that such a powerful and beautiful carrier of Prabhupada’s life, teachings, mood, and mission is no longer walking among us.

When we first met in South India, I addressed you as “Mother Yamuna,” and you returned the address with “ Father Suresvara,” echoing the wit and wisdom of Srila Prabhupada.

The last time we met, I visited your mountain home in Saranagati, Canada. You asked me to lead mangal arati with a tempura, while you played a vintage keyboard behind. The room was so filled with Prabhupada’s presence and prema that I could hardly sing, so choked was my voice.

“ You can do it, dear,” you called from behind, while Dinatarine continued offering arati to your Sri Sri Radha Banabehari.

Not much more than a year later, when Dina told us all how you passed away with your japa-mala, a peaceful near-smile on your face, we knew that you had gone to Srila Prabhupada, to serve him forever, as he desires. As time marches on, this is our only solace.

But what of the legions of Prabhupada-anugas who never met you? Who never experienced “your Prabhupada” especially through your singing, cooking, and cultural preaching.

Yamuna Mata, you are such a powerful and transparent transmitter of our Founder-Acharaya’s unprecedented kindness, that for our sake and the sake of all future generations of Prabhupadanugas, we need to remember you like this, every year, just as you lead us daily in singing to our Lord Govinda.

As we annually honor you Haight- Ashbury godbrother Jayananda Prabhu, another unique conveyor of our Founder- acharya’s mercy, so we need to annually honor you. Like Jayananda’s, your contribution is unique in perpetuating Prabhupada’s matchless legacy of pure love of God for suffering humanity. Official or unofficial, we will do it, from generation to generation, helping to secure the future of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON mission.

Till we meet again, Yamuna Mata, at Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet, I will continue to daily join you singing to our Lord Govinda. I like to take Shyamasundar Prabhu’s part, the male voice supporting your soaring prema: “ Ananda-cinmaya sad-ujjvala vigrahaya/ Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami….”

Yamuna Ma Ki- Jaya!

Srila Prabhupada Ki- jaya!  Nitai Gour premanande!

Syamasundara das

At Los Angeles memorial 2012

So I was trying to think of a description of Yamuna—a short description that might fit her personality more than any other word. And I remembered a word that I learned in college—the word ‘gravitas’. It’s a Greek word and it’s hard to define but its something like deeply serious, deeply serious. Grave, we get gravity from gravitas. This was Yamuna’s defining characteristic in my mind. She had a gravity, a heaviness, and gravity attracts everything that comes into its orbit. And Yamuna was like that. She was the centre of things wherever she went. And this was very fortunate for me in my life to have come into her childhood. She came into my childhood. I was trying to remember what year it was. It was 1955 that I met this beautiful young lady—young girl in junior high school. They had this class called home-room period and this was, as you may remember from your high school, this is the time of day when you studied in a room for one hour, all your other classes, your homework, you studied at home-room. And after some days or weeks in the school there was this empty desk in front of me the whole time. And one day this young, beautiful, striking, dark haired, black haired, girl sits in it in front of me and they introduce her to everyone in the class as a new student named Joan Auzland. So, I was, in those days, quite mischievous like most young people are I suppose—we were fifteen, fourteen—and one day, an home room period, she had black pigtails and they kept falling down on my desk, so I jerked one of them, just to see what would be the response. No response. So I let it go a little bit longer. I jerked it again. No response. Finally about the fourth of fifth time I pulled really hard, she let out a scream. And she got in major trouble and from then on we were very close friends, from that day on. She became my earliest soul-mate, in terms of being able to share new things. Not boyfriend, girlfriend, ever, nothing like that. But there was a sense of she wanted to know, like I was, what was going on. What was the truth about things? There was this new music called rock-and-roll and I remember our first discussions were about this record or that record and she was so perceptive about what the person was saying in the record. So in this way, we kept away from everybody else, it was just me and Joanie. We did things together. We talked about things together that nobody talked about with me, except her, and visa versa, she shared everything—what her boyfriend was like, I would tell her about my girlfriends—it was normal teenage adolescence stuff, but on a different level than anybody else that I had in my life. It was just me and Joanie. We were deep soul-mate type friends. Then her family moved away, this was in Salome Oregon, her family moved away to Portland somewhere. So I lost contact with her for a few years. And I went up to Portland to go to Reed College, a school there, and one day I ran into her working behind the jewelry counter at Myern Frank Department Store. I said, “Joanie!” “Wow! Sam! Ah!” So our lives began again a few years later, more mature now. I was in college, she had graduated from high school, she was working and oh she was so happy to find her soul-mate again and so was I. So we began sharing, my life at the college, I brought her to meet my friends, by then we were talking about Bob Dylan—“What was he saying in his songs?” And she would give her interpretation and I would give mine and “Yes! Oh, your right! This is what he’s saying!” And we began reading books together we would pass back and fourth like “Sidhartha” and Herman Hesses book about Buddha, Jack Carroax’s?? books, “On the Road”. We started listening to jazz together and getting deeper and deeper, trying to find our way. Finding out what is the truth about all this? It’s going so fast now, so intense. These new drugs are coming in that allow you to see certain new dimensions, “What do you think Joanie? What do you think about this?” So like that we began to share our lives, very closely. I came down to, after I got out of college, I came down to San Francisco and met Melanie, she became my girlfriend, and we came back, and Joanie would come down to San Francisco too and this was 1964 in summers between our college semesters she would come down. I introduced her to people at Reed College, she was attracted by this calligraphy art by Lloyd Renal so she began to take a class from him. That’s where she learned her beautiful calligraphy. She began to take interest in making pots and leather work. She was very good at that. Her boyfriend at the time who was my room mate in college, Day Holt, had a leather shop on Grant Street, North Beach, San Francisco 1964. This was before the hippy phenomenon. So we all moved down to that sandal shop that summer in ’64. That’s when I met Melanie I think. So we all lived above this sandal shop trying to find out “What’s going on? What’s going on?” We knew something was changing in society, in our lives, in all of our friends’ lives. It was major. And we were looking for the truth. We were looking for the meaning of life. We had this really great friend from Reed named Michael Grant and he was so cool. Michael wore shades in the night time, at night, he was so cool. He was the first one who turned us on to Lenny Bruce and all these great jazz musicians. Michael was so good playing the piano—he was a jazz pianist—that he played in these coffee houses at night in Portland, Oregon. And we’d go down at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning and hang out, smoke thick in the air, Michael pounding the ivories with his black bur ray, his dark glasses on, he was so cool. So anything that he came up with, we automatically wanted to find out about it because he was a little wave ahead of us. So we all became friends in this way, kind of a little rat pack of our own, trying to find out what it was all about. So I decided to go up to Portland and first thing we did was our friend had a house with her sister, Jan, and so I introduced Michael to Joan and he fell in love with her sister, Jan. So he moved in, so there was those three and Melanie and I rented the house next door so all five of us lived next door to each other in these big houses, old Victorian houses and we began to read, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, “Tibetan Book of the Dead”, Tim Larry’s latest book, trying to find out what is the truth, what is the truth, what is the truth. And Malati just told a story then about how Michael was playing jazz in New York on the lower east side somewhere and met this Swami and this story she told.

So, lets see. Oh, I remember a funny story while we were living next door to each other. This gives a little insight into Yamuna’s kind of different personality. Besides her gravitas, Yamuna’s defining characteristic to me in our life-long bond was humor, comedy. I started out in junior high teasing her, pulling her hair, and that was always our kind of rasa, I would tease her sometimes mercilessly to get her to laugh. She had a great sense of humor that always tickled me, I always wanted to make her laugh, I would sometimes tickle her to make her laugh and say off-color things of something just to get a response because she was always so grave. I would say something so outrageous that she would have to laugh. So one day—she kept saying over and over again she wanted an aquarium in her house—so one day somebody loaned me a fishing rod and I went down to the river, which was just below our house, the Limont River and I caught maybe a dozen of these little fish, they were some kind of a pen fish, and put them in a bucket of water and I brought them up to Joanie’s house and I said, “Here’s the fish for your aquarium!” She didn’t have an aquarium. “What are we going to do with them?” I said, “Well, lets put them in your bathtub.” So she ran the water in the bathtub, we threw the fish in and for several months, those fish lived in her bathtub and she cared for them meticulously. She put rocks in there and she planted little plants around and she found a turtle to put in there. But one day she says, “You know, I gotta be able to take a bath. I really need my bathtub back.” So she had me catch the fish and put them in a bucket and take them back to the river… Yeah, she was coming to our place next door to take a shower. This is Yamuna. So then, short-form is, Malati and I were up in this fire lookout which was only 4,500 feet not 10,000, and all summer we hadn’t seen anybody for three months. I was up in the tower watching from dawn to dark for fires and suddenly near the end of the summer this old car or I guess it was a new car, they had rented or it was a drive-away car of some kind, just pulled by our cabin and Yamuna and Mukunda (their names we didn’t know) but Joan and Mike, Jan jumped out of this car and they started telling us about this Swami they had met in New York and they had these great big red beads on and they were chanting something or making some mumbling noises and grinning all over from ear to ear and of course the first thing we offered them was a cup of coffee—“No, no”—We said, “Here, have some meat.”—“No, no, no thank you.”—We said, “How about some drugs. We got some great drugs.”—“No, no, no, no.” We couldn’t believe it, you know, and they started telling us about this man they met and I said, “Oh, you think this is the one, Yamuna? You think this is the one we’ve been looking for?” She said, “This is the one. This is the one we’ve been looking for.” So automatically, I accepted it. That was it. If Yamuna said, and Malati agrees, she found out too, she respected what-ever Yamuna said, this is it—okay, I accept it completely—and if Mukunda also, I mean—no two could have said this is the one and we would have accepted immediately—but they both said, “This is the one.” So we accepted immediately. So over the years this gravitas, this grave heaviness of Yamuna persisted through all of our activities together. She always went to the heart of the matter no matter what. She was almost like one of Prabhupada’s elder daughters—their relationship—she was very respectful for Srila Prabhupada, listened to everything he said and whatever he said she followed. Whereas Janaki was a bit more mischievous, she was almost like a naughty child and she was almost like Prabhupada’s mother sometimes. She would chide him, “No, Swamiji you shouldn’t do that.” “Oh, okay.” And Prabhupada would back off.

The one word that persists through Yamuna’s entire Krsna consciousness career is ‘fixed up’. She was fixed up from day one. We first heard that word to talk about devotees who were really good, really advanced devotees, we said they were fixed up. And Yamuna was always fixed up right from the day one. I mean, she was our example of what it meant to be fixed up. We were struggling, we were falling down, but she was fixed up so she was always our example. We kept her in front of us as the example of how we should be. In all those difficult times in London it was Yamuna and Malati and the girls that kept us going, really, I mean there was no way we could have done these incredible things that we did there, except these girls made us get up in the morning, they made us chant, they made us have kirtan, and made us come together. If we were living in separate places the girls arranged it, Yamuna in charge and they made sure we kept to the regulations and rules. That’s the secret of our effectiveness in that town. And throughout our days in London—early days—Yamuna, for some reason we knew that somehow or other we would have to perform in public, kirtan and give Krishna consciousness a musical expression. So right from the beginning she organized us as a band. Gurudas was the first one with the guts to wear a dhoti and the first one to shave his head as well, she kind of forced you to do that I think, so Gurudas, she and Malati got a hold of these bed sheets and they dyed them this kind of yellowish, faded yellow color and we started wearing dhoti’s and shaved our heads to become a “band” under Yamuna’s direction. As a formal band, all dressed alike, and Yamuna taught us the words. She made us memorize all these prayers: “Govindam adi purusham”… dada dada dada. And she made up the melodies. Yamuna made up all these melodies. The Hare Krishna mantra she had melodies, the Govindam prayers, all the prayers we did on those records, Yamuna composed sometimes with Mukunda, the melodies. And she made us memorize the words. To this day, I don’t know what those words mean. I still don’t know what they mean in English, many of them, but she made us memorize them to the music.

And then India, we all went to India and her struggles in Vrindavan—her and Gurudas—my God, nobody knows how they struggled there to follow what Prabhupada wanted there. That in itself would be a major book, the struggles you guys had. And Yamuna was the strong one. She kept it going. She kept it anchored. And then over the years I didn’t see Yamuna often but I would visit her sometimes in Saranagati. We would remember the old days and laugh. I would tease her, continue to tease her to make her laugh. I think we had jokes and laugh on the side that nobody else had, we had that relationship. And she was still the most fixed up person that I knew throughout all the Krishna conscious period. She was always the example of being fixed up. My deepest confidant, I could say anything to Yamuna, she could say anything to me. I saw her last maybe a year and a half ago. I went to India, I took this famous guitarist there, Joe Walts. He plays for a group called ‘The Eagles’. So I took him and his wife they wanted to go on a little tour of India and I heard Yamuna was in the hospital there so I thought, “I want to introduce you guys to somebody really special in Krishna consciousness.” And I played them her records, “Govindam” and “Hare Krishna” and the other ones. So I took them up to meet Yamuna and she was in this room on the top of the hospital just barely coming out of her very ill period, she was dressed very simply in a gown and I said, “Yamuna, I’m coming with a couple of friends that I want you to meet.” “Oh, no, no, no, I can’t meet.” “Yes, I’m coming. There’s no way you’re gonna get out of this. Their only here this afternoon, so we’re coming.” So I open the door and those three got along so great. It was so wonderful watching one of the most famous guitarists in the world appreciate Yamuna’s musical ability and visa versa. It was very special and to this day he would ask, “So what’s going on? What’s going on with Yamuna?” And when I told him recently about her passing he was so sad.

I last saw Yamuna in Alachua probably about the same period as you did, Gurudas, maybe a little after, and I spent the afternoon with her there in Alachua. And we found out somehow or other we started to talk about Gaurasundar, one of the early devotees, you saw his picture many times in these walks here, he kind of disappeared from Krishna consciousness but he was such a stout fellow and such a wonderful devotee, Prabhupada loved him so much. So we found his phone number and we talked to him, Yamuna and I talked to him that afternoon. Its been a long time and Yamuna talked to him so nicely and remembered everything that he was good at and it was really nice hearing her talk that way. And we laughed. We laughed together till tears were pouring out of our eyes, remembering some of the old stuff and the last thing I said to her was, “Well, Yamuna, you got to get back in shape. That’s all there is to it. Your living here in Florida, it’s all flat here. You got to get back to the mountains here next summer, come back to Oregon, and we’ll hike up Mount Jefferson again together.” She said, “Okay, next summer I’m coming. We’ll hike up mount Jefferson together.” So just a few days before she passed, we talked on the phone and I said, “Are you happy, Yamuna? Are you happy?” And she said, “I’m so happy, Shyam. I’m so happy we met Srila Prahbupada together. Thank you very much.” Those were the last words I heard from her. So thank you Yamuna, for being such a fixed up stalwart example for all of us.

At Vrndavan 2013 memorial

I guess next to  Janaki, I have Known Yamuna longest of all the devotees.  Some of my fondest memories of Yamuna are from my earliest days.  The telling of which may shed some light on this wonderful kind person you all know as Yamuna devi dasi.

You have to go back 56 years, when we were both 13 years old. A small junior high school in a small town in Oregon state. A one room class, where a new girl, Joan Osland was seated at the desk immediately in front of me.

That first day, her black pigtails slid across the desk in front of me, and I couldn’t resist.  So I couldn’t resist.  I grabbed one and yanked on it.  Now, when in class means where you study quietly- so silence is the rule.  No response. So I yanked again.

A little harder.  No response. So I really gave a tug. And she squealed.  Immediately the teacher reprimanded her and we became friends, united by humour for the rest of our lives.

She was the foil of my antics. If she approved, or if I could make her laugh, that became my purpose in life. And especially to make her laugh maybe at something a little off colour and watch her turn red and hide her eyes.  Lower her hand over her eyes and shake with laughter, and then drive it in so hard and unrelenting, until she would run from the room giggling down the hall.

Do you know this Yamuna?  And gradually we found a special bond. As spiritual pals. Never as girlfriend and boyfriend in the usual sense. But as fellow seekers. Confidential soul mates. Joanie and I began to explore the deeper aspects of life and shared our special discoveries.  Her gravity and deep seriousness clicked with my craving for the meaning of life.

Gradually we attracted a few others into our little circle. My college mate, super cool Mike Grant, who you all know now as Mukunda Goswami. My beautiful crazy girlfriend Melanie, who is Malati devi now. Joan’s little sister Jan.  Our little band of spiritual seekers on the edge of the psychadellic age.

Malati reminded me of of a story about Yamuna a few days back. Yamuna like aquariums and raised little fish.  But all of her attempts to keep an aquarium seemed to fail.  The tanks would get algae and the fish would die.   At that time she moved in one house and I rented a house next door to her. So one day I went down to the nearby river. The (?) River in Portland Oregon and caught about six large fish, about 12 – 25 (?) long and put them in a bucket of water and brought them to her. “Here Joan,some fish for your bathtub.”  So she filled the bathtub with water and kept the fish there for several (?),feeding them.

But one day she came to me and said, “Sonny, you have just got to take those fish back down to the river, I need to take a bath.”

Of all of our adventures of spiritual seeking, I think this one was the most crucial. In the Christmas season of 1964, Joannie and I borrowed a big old car from a friend.  It was painted a copper colour, so we called it the bronze hog.   And together we drove from Oregon, thousands of miles down to Los Angelos, California. Exploring places in between, reading to each other from (Karanabs on the way?) The Tibetan book of the Dead. Reading poetry. Listening to jazz. Discussing the meaning of life.

(must be missing something here, but it goes to this:)

After not seeing any other people for several months, suddenly a car rode up to our cabin.  It was Joannie and Mike. They immediately began to tell us about this swami they had met in New York. How wonderful he was. The real master at last.

The fact that Mike, the strongest skeptic in our little band was convinced about Bhaktivedanta Swami, that was one thing.  But the fact that Joannie was convinced, sealed it for me. If Joannie thought this swami was for real, I automatically accepted him as my master too, without a moment’s hesitation.

So to you Yamuna, I owe you my life, an eternal debt of gratitude for bringing me to Srila Prabhupada.

Yamuna was always so happy with her special friend, Radhanath Swami, and so full of joy, surrounded by the devotees at Chowpatty Temple.  She was one of the first pioneers in Bombay and she struggled so hard in those early days, to spread Krsna consciousness in a land that seemed to have forgotten Krsna.

And then in later years, to know that her deep sacrifices were so richly rewarded, the miraculous Mumbai Krsna conscious community. That meant everything to Yamuna.

Yamuna and I knew from the beginning, even in eighth grade. That really the only two persons that knew this, that life was not accidental.  That nothing is coincidence. That friendships found in the spirit of magic are special.

Without talking too much about it, we knew that we were special. But only some short time separated us from our special leader, and by magic he would appear. The supreme magician. The magic man himself. The master of all magic. Our dearest Srila Prabhupada.

Tosan Krishna das

When one is on  the bhakti marg everything is personal. Jamuna devi’s abundantly nutritious persona was the direct catalyst making the crucial difference between myself merely looking at the honey inside the jar and my deliberate decision to dive in it.

By way of my attendance of a Sriman Bhagawatam class she gave one morning in the summer of 1968 at the Fredrick Street Temple, in San Francisco, ( my first visitor’s experience of a Temple morning program) I, a 17 year old agnostic, was delightfully treated  to the warm realization that Krishna consciousness was not only a very good  concept but was, in fact,  a wealth of wholesome food-for-the-soul that you could practically experience, relish and be fortified with. She was the unpretentious personification of this with both heart and mind.

As an existential sojourner, I was weary of sixties’ faux counter-cultural promises. Jamuna was a breath of rich nourishing reality. She was the un-hippy, the real deal, hard-core with a soft inner-core. She delivered. I wanted what she was dishing out….sabda brahma, transcendental sound spoken with piercing intelligence, deep love and a beguiling, sparkling, playful smile… transferred from one soul to the next.

Simply put—Jamuna was the key impetus for myself deciding to move into the Temple and then take initiation from Srila Prabhupad. ( She placed the kunti beads around my neck at the diksa ceremony.)

Profoundly understood—she saved my life.

Tosan Krishna das—a proud and grateful younger brother of my big sister, Jamuna devi dasi.

Vaiyasaki das

With great sorrow and deep regret that I wasn’t able to see her one last time, we have to accept that Yamuna Devi Dasi is no longer with us. She was undoubtedly one of Srila Prabhupada’s foremost disciples. Tamal Krishna Goswami told me personally that back in 1970 Prabhupada told him that Yamuna was already at the bhava bhakti stage of devotional service! All glories to Srimate Yamuna Devi who will be remembered for the next 10,000 years by her chanting of Govindam.

Vani Devi Dasi

December 20, 2015
Four years ago I got a phone call at three in the morning. Minutes later I couldn’t control my tears and the only thing I knew to do was to take shelter of Panca Tattva. Standing in front of their Lordships in a daze the tears came again as I felt your absence. My heart hurt, my heart still hurts. Your love for Krsna, Prabhupada, and all of us met no bounds, and a moment with you was like a hundred as time stood still and I couldn’t take my eyes from you. Your love was real, your spiritual vision was real, your taste for the holy name was real, your Bhakti was real, your loyalty to Prabhupada was real, and sitting at your feet experiencing all this I couldn’t move, completely overwhelmed.
But Aunty, four years later and I feel your absence less and less because my memories of you are ever strong. Whatever glimpses of taste you gave me burn ever encouraging in my heart, glimpses of a goal I one day desire to reach. I feel you present in my japa and kirtan. I feel you present in my relationship with my spiritual master, as your instructions guided me and your presence with Gurudev and I during those special moments completed my spiritual family. I feel your presence when I cook, you said to me:
“I’m so glad you are already tasting the Radharani Cooking Zone. Just gives me so much happiness to hear this.”
I will never forget those words when I’m in the kitchen, as I try to apply the principles of cooking for Krishna that you taught me.
I know you are with me and I pray the rest of my life can be lived in service to you. I love you Aunty Yamuna, how I wish I could sit at your feet again and hear you speak, but I am nonetheless overwhelmed with gratitude for the moments we’ve had together. As you once wrote to me: “Because we are separated by miles means nothing, for we are always together in heart.”
Aunty, even now I know we are connected in our hearts.
How I regret my foolishness and ignorance in your presence, the time I forgot to reply to your email, and that day I couldn’t go to Ambika Kalna with you, please please forgive me Aunty.
My love for you only increases every day. Please continue to guide and protect me by keeping me at your feet and enveloped in your strong intense embrace.
Your servant,
Vani dd

Vrajalila devi dasi

Obeisances to Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja and Prabhupada.

So I am deeply appreciative and really humbled to be in the association of all the devotees here, and to have been asked by his Holiness Radhanath Maharaja to share something about Yamuna devi.

It is such a heart warming Memorial. I am so grateful that I am not missing it.  This morning I was sick, and I was thinking, Please Yamuna, let me come and try to say a little something.

So somehow I am here.  So many wonderful things have been said about who she is as a person, what she has left for us, as a legacy.  What I can recall in my association with her is the intimate friendship between her and my guru maharaja, Bhakti Tirtha Swami.

When we came back from Africa, in 1986. This is the initial time, when Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja wanted to start urban preaching in Washington D.C.  And he at that time, was not quite sure how that would happen.

Because he really didn’t have that much support.  Any way, he requested a couple of us, maybe three of us, at that time.  At that time, Bhakti Tirtha had sent myself and Yasodamayi to Central America to open a temple;  just the two of us ladies. And he sent a letter to us, requesting us to come back to Washington.  Because he wanted to start this urban preaching.

And this is when Yamuna came into my vision.  She and my guru maharaja were really close friends. Very close friends. And this manifested many different times. But two times that I specifically remember that friendship was when Hladini left her body. Hladini devi.

At that time, my guru maharaja was really sad, because he felt really guilty, because Hladini Mataji was preaching in Africa and the arrangement was made through him that she would be in Africa. And so when he learned about her leaving, my guru maharaja  was very sad and needed support.

And at that time, Dina and Yamuna would come to my guru maharaja and spend time talking with him. And they really helped him so much just to move through that period, it was a very difficult period.

(inaudible) just made themselves available, made themselves present, even if it was just by phone. But he relished those calls so much, I remember, because it was painful, that Hladini devi had left and left all of our association.

So Yamuna and Dina visited at that time, during that time when we were pioneering this preaching center, called “The Insitute for Applied Spiritual Technology”  And it was also in this period that my guru maharaja went through another difficult time and again, Yamuna devi and Dina were there for him.

Just by friendship. This friendship manifested in many different ways.  One of the ways that they shared their friendship is that they had a place where they stayed in Washington D.C. at a devotee, Bhakta Henry’s.   Bhakta Henry, he facilitated so many of Prabhupada’s disciples.  He had a huge house and anyone that would come, any of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples that would come, he would make all the arrangements for them.  And he would care for them, as you do here in Chowpatty, for Srila Prabhupada’s disciples.

Starting out very humbly, in a very small place, really a one room place and four devotees living together, so we really couldn’t do much in terms of programs. And Yamuna Mataji would offer the place at Bhakta Henry sometimes to bring the devotees that were coming to Krsna consciousness.

At that time there were about twenty devotees that had started coming to the preaching center. These devotees had no knowledge about Krsna consciousness whatsoever. So we were introducing them to Krsna consciousness. And Yamuna mataji was always so enthusiastic about this type of preaching, so supportive and calling us, okay, can you bring the devotees? Where are the devotees?

So that one time Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja said, “Okay, arrange for the devotees to go to Bhakta Henry’s and Yamuna had offered to cook for the devotees, about twenty devotees. And I remember she cooked amazing lunch prasadam with her own hands, this particular time. We went there many, many times. But this particular time, she served a desert. And it was a cake.

It looked like chocolate. At that time, no one ate chocolate, at that time. And so she served the cake. And so one devotee came to me, and said, “Vrajalila, this is a chocolate cake.”  And I said, “Come on, how can you even think that, of course Yamuna would never ever serve us chocolate. This is new devotees, they think like this.  Why would you think she would do that?” And so then another devotee came to me and said, “I just came out of the material world I love chocolate.  This is not chocolate. I tell you this is not chocolate.”  But they were so disturbed that Yamuna would give them chocolate.

And I remember we went back to the Institute and Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja asked how it went. He was always eager to know how the new devotees responded to his god brothers or god sisters.

And so I shared everything with him and said that these devotees they got thinking that Yamuna served them chocolate cake. And he said, “That is ridiculous. How can they think like that?”  So he said, “You need to speak to the  devotees, like this.”  So a few days later, we had a chance to go back to her home for some reason. This time is was just myself and I took the opportunity to ask, “Yamuna Mataji, with a straw in my teeth, I want to ask you a question.” She looked at me and said, “Did I do something wrong?”  And I said, “No, absolutely not.”

She was always so humble, and she always thought that she was doing something to disturb devotees. And I said, “No, absolutely not.”  She said, “Well, did something happen?” And I said, “Everyone enjoyed the lunch so much,it was so delicious. And the cake especially was so good.  What was the cake made from? That must be really good carob.” And she said, “That wasn’t carob. That was chocolate.”  “Chocolate?”  And she said, “Yes. We always served Srila Prabhupada chocolate. I served Srila Prabhupada on the train.”  And I said, “Oh Krsna.”

So then I didn’t know what to do. And she said, “Is that wrong?” “I don’t know. I don’t know.”  Because this is Yamuna. How could I say this is not.  So I remember like, “No, no, no.this is fine.”  And I remember going back and talking to new devotees and apologizing, so sorry devotees, yes mother Yamuna informed us that.

And then my guru maharaja, was looking, because he didn’t eat chocolate either.  “That was chocolate Yamuna?”  And she is like, “Yeah, it was.”  We were both like in amazement. Apologized to the devotees, yes that was chocolate, and then later my guru maharaja said, “I would still prefer that the devotees would not eat chocolate.”

And there were so many other stories, but this was just one about the mood of how humble she was, how a servant she was, and how much she was thinking how to please others, and to not in any way cause a disturbance.  She was always like that. She was  a private person. She would never, ever, ever, as far as I can remember,  all the way back to 1986, ever want to cause a disturbance.

Even though she spoke to my guru maharaja many, many times, no one would know so much, because she just wanted to not be so visible. Not a visible person.

We were on our way from India, when we leave from here to Florida to be with Yamuna and Dina, and somehow she’s gone back to Srila Prabhupada. But just from the short association that we had, I know that this is very glorious for her to be with Srila Prabhupada. Extremely glorious. Thank you very much.

Yogesvara das

At Alachua 2011 memorial

Hare Krsna.  All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Yamuna devi!

I am very honoured to be asked to say something here this evening. And I thanking Mother Malati and all the other devotees who have worked so diligently to put this memorial together for Yamuna.

I won’t take long, but I do want to express what I have in my heart  It has been very difficult these last few days.  I was nineteen years old when I met Yamuna for the first time. I was a student in (inaudible).  I had the recommendation of Umapati Swami that came to London to visit the temple. And Yamuna was the first devotee I knew.

She was serving lunch out. She invited me to sit down, and over the next few weeks, I just realized that I had just been invited into the company of an extraordinaryhuman being. Everything about her was larger than life. Her voice could go from very delicate and angelic, to very deep and loud and profound.

And her devotion was larger than life. I was just mesmerized watching her serve the Deities Radha Londoniswara. With so much love and devotion. Her heart was larger than life.  The care that she expressed for young people like myself that were coming to the temple then

Her love of Prabhupada was larger than life.  At age nineteen, seeing her just offereing her love to Prabhupada was inspiring for me.  I didn’t understand it, it was so profound. But I wanted to understand it. So she was very kind and took me under her wing.  She and the other devotees there.

Syamsundar, and Malati, Gurudas, Mukunda and Janaki, they are the reason I am here now. They adopted me. They took care of me.

At New York memorial  2011

My name is Yogesvara das, it’s not what my wife calls me, but in 1969 I had the pleasure of visiting the London temple.  I was a student at the time in Paris and during Christmas holiday there was a devotee in Paris called Umapati who said, “Yeah, you should visit the Krsna temple in London.  Our teacher is there, our spiritual master is there and it’s a very rare thing” he said, “to meet a pure devotee of God.”  I had no idea what he was talking about but it sounded very special.  So I did and I’d like to take a few moments to tell you what happened when I visited the Radha Krsna temple in London on December 26th 1969.  Before I do however, I should introduce myself.  I’m 61 years old, I was 19 when I visited the temple in London.  I teach these days and being a child of the ‘60’s there was, we might say, a kind of psychological pre disposition to the kind of beautiful exotic surroundings that greeted me when I visited the temple in London in 1969.  Just as if any of you are coming here for the first time you might be wondering what this is all about.  It’s not necessarily obvious to people coming to a Krsna temple for the first time what it is they are walking into and certainly for people to see the worship of the beautiful Deities.  Here we have Radha Govinda.  My good fortune was that I was in Brooklyn when they first came from India in 1972 and in London the Deities are known as Radha Londonisvara.  Yamuna was in charge of the Deities, she was the pujari of the temple?????.  Visiting the temple, I like to tell this story.  When Umapati in Paris said you should go visit the devotees because they’re recording with George Harrison and the Beatles right now, that was a big incentive.  I don’t know anybody who wasn’t there back in the 1960’s could understand what it means to be able to meet and record with the Beatles.  That was winning the lottery, that was a home run.

So, I arrived in London on December 26th,  walked in and Yamuna was the first person I met.  Yamuna was larger than life in every sense of the term.  She was a large woman but she carried herself like a ballerina, I have never seen anyone carrying themselves so delicately for someone who was ????? to be able to just float across the room, she didn’t walk, she floated across the room.  Everything about her was intentional, her gestures, her walk, her speech, everything was intentional.  And because it had intention behind it you found yourself listening more carefully, watching more carefully.  I walked in and she said, “You’re just in time.”  “For what?”  “Well we’re having lunch, come downstairs.”  So we walked downstairs.  This is a small temple, near the British Museum, 7 Bury Place, that George Harrison had actually signed the lease for.  I walked downstairs and there were people sitting around on cushions.  Yamuna proceeded to serve, 2 or 3 other people were serving from large pots.  This is awfully nice, nice first impression, being received with such courtesy and immediately being given some lunch.  Then she said come upstairs and we went upstairs into the Deity room and she showed me the Deities.  I didn’t know what that was.

We were talking, so the first thing that, what was it, Tamal Krsna I think.  No, at the time Yamuna was married to Guru das, an old and dear friend.  Guru das was asking me, “Tell me something about yourself.”    “I’m at college”  “What else?”  “I play the organ in the college band.”  “Really?  You play the organ?  Well come with us.”  So we set aside our plates, went upstairs, got into a Volkswagon mini bus.  I don’t know if any of you have ever seen them but they’re probably the most dangerous vehicle ever invented by the devious mind of the motor industry.  We got into this Volkswagon mini bus.  I said, “Where are we going?”  He said, “Well, congratulations, you’re in Krsna’s band now.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  But ten minutes later the door opens and we’re looking at a building that looked vaguely familiar and there was a number “3” on the door for 3 Savile Row.  Now anybody who knew anything at all about the Beatles knew that 3 Savile Row was Apple headquarters.  I’m going, “Wait a minute, what’s going on here?”  We walked in, go inside the building, people are waving at us like they knew who the devotees were.  We went downstairs to a recording studio and there’s George Harrison.  I’m thinking to myself, Ok, let me get this straight.   If I stay with these people I’m going to get God and the Beatles.  Amen.  George proceeded to greet everyone.  He was obviously very happy to see them all.  I stayed and as I was saying ?????? thirteen years ?????Krsna’s temples.   I really do owe my life to Yamuna because walking into a very strange environment she made it understandable.  You know, if you’re lucky I think you get some new insight in material life if you’re very fortunate.  Some people get that insight through therapy, other people get that insight through different sorts of meditative or contemporary practices.  Some people get those insights by attending the school of hard knocks.  I have to say that Yamuna gave everything  meaning?????.

Food made sense after I met Yamuna.  It didn’t really taste food until I tasted Yamuna’s cooking and tasted what devotion meant.  Music of course, everyone back in the ‘60’s was surrounded by music all the time, but here when Yamuna sang, she made music really make sense, gave it a different dimension. Everything she did was larger than life, her heart was larger than life, her love for Krsna and for Radha and for Prabhupada was larger than life.  Everything about her was …I don’t know how many lifetimes she had been through in order to become Yamuna but clearly this was a very, very special person, this is not something ordinary.  Yamuna was extraordinary.  Let me tell you just one or two stories if I may and then maybe if you ask some questions I’d be happy to tell you about her.

Yamuna had a very devotional voice whether speaking or singing.  It was something lyrical, there was a lilting sound to her voice that was absolutely captivating and her love for the Deities Radha Londonisvara was in a kind of maternal mood, she loved Them like her children.  In fact her and Guru das who were unable to have children.  I was there at the London temple when a letter arrived from Srila Prabhupada saying, “Well, make Krsna your child.”  And she did.  I remember helping carry some things up to her room at the temple in London???.  Back then there were no books, there was no library publications of Srila Prabhupada’s books as there is today.  We had one or two books and then manuscripts of books that were coming out.  Yamuna had the only manuscript of the Krsna book that was available and it was sitting on her shelf.  I was too curious, so while she wasn’t looking I snuck that manuscript and looked at it, picked up some pages and started reading it.  It said “Child Krsna climbed on to the breast of Putana and sucked her nipple.”  I’m thinking to myself, “Whatever this devotee Yamuna is in to is way over my head.”  I put it down and ran out???.  She was very understanding and very maternal toward me as well and understood that at the ripe old age of 19 there really wasn’t much that I would understand about the life we were living together.

It was a very very small intimate thing and maybe that’s what I’d like you to understand most of all, what it was like in those days.  We are known as, we’re the first generation, right?  We’re it, we were the people that were there at the beginning and we usually get this question whenever we’re invited to speak in Krsna temples – What was it like back then?  Do you have a Prabhupada story to tell?  Those are the kind of questions we are accustomed to getting.  If I were to have you understand anything at all about the roots of Krsna consciousness in the Western world, it is that it was a family feeling, it was a family affection.  Something that after a certain point maybe in the excitement of our growing institution got marginalised a little, but that’s what got to me.  That’s what got to me.  There were six people there at that time . There was Yamuna, her then husband Guru das, Syamasundara, his then wife Malati, Mukunda, who is now Mukunda Goswami and his then wife Janaki.  These six people were marvellous, they were absolutely marvellous people.  I just wanted to keep that company because it was so warm and special, intelligent and funny.  They had a sense of humour, my gosh, sense of humour.  That’s a sign of enlightenment you know, I think, if you a have a sense of humour???  I got sick one day, one week, I remember and they brought me into their apartment room, fed me prasadam and I stayed there until I got better.  There was a real warm sense of family.

She was the example to me, she was my, you might say, vartmapradarsaka guru.  She was the person who really introduced me to devotional life.  We would go shopping together, well not exactly shopping.  We didn’t have any money so what we did, Yamuna had made friends with all the suppliers in the Farmers’ Market in London.  What was the name of that market place?  Convent Gardens.  I would go with Yamuna to Covent Gardens and she would just be singing and dancing away through the various stalls of Convent Garden and meet this one and that one.  They all had their little orange crates or vegetable crates of produce that they had put aside for her, maybe it was a day over expiration or whatever.   I would be walking behind her with all these fruits and vegetables and go back to the temple and she would make feasts like you would not believe.  She’d always had this touch for cooking things, quite ???.  I just loved that company and I hope you all have that experience.  I hope you feel what it’s like to have a spiritual family.  That can make all the difference in the world when the weight of the world drags you down and when the challenges to your spiritual progress seem insurmountable, it’s good to have a spiritual friend, it’s good to have a spiritual family, people you can talk to.  We could talk with one another back then.  I would encourage you as well to think about this if at any point there were glitches along the way in the development of Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna consciousness movement, it’s because sometimes we forgot to be human beings.  We were so preoccupied with being good devotees that we forgot what it really meant to be good human beings.  They would be posturing and not enough modesty, not enough talking about not what’s going on, what’s in your hearts.  Yamuna encouraged that all the time.

I want to tell you one story about Yamuna I think that kind of sums it all up, is that ok?  All right, here we go.  It’s the story of this book.  This book is called “Lord Krsna’s Cuisine.”  It’s 864 pages long, there are more than 500 recipes in this book, there are more than 100,000 weights, measures and temperatures in this book.  This book is one of her many offerings of love to Srila Prabhupada.  We lost track of one another for awhile, she went to India, I came back to the States.  Then one day in 1984 I guess it was, I got a letter from her from London – she had come back to London after many years in India.  She knew that I was in publishing and said, “Would you help me publish a book, I’ve written a cookbook.”  I thought, “Oh well, sure.”  I would do anything to help Yamuna.  “Send me a manuscript.”

Little did I know, about a week later this truck pulls up outside my apartment on 23rd Street, just down the block from where Mark now has the doughnut plan.  I used to live on the corner of that street.  This truck pulls up and I hear the horn beeping and I came downstairs and the guy says, “Are you Joshua Greene?”  I say, “Yeah.”  “Sign there.”  Out of the back of this truck comes a box that must have weighed about 13 tons, I mean it was huge, it was heavy.  He helped me lug it upstairs.  I opened this thing and there’s a manuscript thing about this big.  It was more than 1600 pages.  I mean half the trees in Canada had given their life for the preparation, it was incredible.  I’m looking at this thing and thinking what have I gotten myself into here?  I can’t even lift it let alone get it published.  I start reading and I’m reading and the manuscript is as devotional as Yamuna herself.  If you read this book, I mean I’ll open just any page at random, any page, and it says, “This is an???? Then she describes where it comes from, what it’s used for, the celebration you find this in??? filled with devotional stories.  This is like a scripture, who’s going to publish this thing?

Called around to some of the people I knew in publishing they said, “All right, well send the manuscript.”  Got somebody to pay for the copies of the manuscript and sent these things out.  To this day I have at home the most beautiful collection of rejection letters from every publisher in America.  The most heartfelt, “This is incredible research, it’s extraordinary, good luck to you, I have no idea what to do with it, don’t have any ideas for you, it’s fantastic.”  Who wanted to publish???  Who wants to read 1000 pages on Indian vegetarian food with all of these descriptions of Lord Krsna and this guru???  The best that we were able to get was someone saying, “Look can you edit it down, can you condense it, can you give us an abridged edition?”  I went to Yamuna and at this time I had been joined by my very dear friend Prahlada Priya.  We went to Yamuna and said, “Look here’s what we’re finding that the publishers won’t touch it, it’s too much for them, they have no idea what to do with this.  Will you condense it, will you edit it down?” and she said “No. If you’re going to do something for Prabhupada, do it right.  Never compromise, never compromise.” and she lived her life like that.

That became our mantra, that became our guiding principle, that we would not compromise this book.  Any time the publisher said, “Well, we’ll publish 100 recipes but not 500 recipes, we’d say no thank you,” until we reached a point where we ran out of options.  At the time I was doing some childrens’ books and I went to the editor of Duttons, EP Duttons is a division of Penguin, which is one of the largest publishing companies in the world.  “Christopher, I have a manuscript for a cookbook, can you introduce it to your cookbook editor?”  he said, “Sure.”  So he introduced it ????to a woman Amy????????? Amy ???said, “This is really something.”  She thought about it and came back with the same answer that everyone else had said.  “You know, it’s an amazing book we just can’t the risk, its too much of a risk to do something this size.”  Remember, Yamuna was large in every way. She couldn’t think small, nothing she did was small, everything was big.  Her voice was big, her teachings were big, her cooking was big, her manuscript was big, nobody could touch it.  I talked to Prahlada and said, “Look can we get some people to help and maybe we can make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

He went out and brought in some friends and I brought in some friends and we went back to the publisher and said, “Here’s what we’ll do.  We will pay for it, we will pay for the typesetting, we will pay for the printing and binding, all the manufacturing.  We will pay for the artwork, we’ll pay for everything, you just distribute the book.  If there’s any inventory left over after one year, we will buy it back.”  That’s a no brainer, at that point there was no way they could say “No.”  So we did that.  We put a lot of money into it, a lot of time and effort and I remember we were sitting there doing the composition?????ourselves all day and all night and it reaches a point where we are doing all these weights and conversions from ounces??? “Are we crazy?”  We were really beginning to doubt our sanity.  Is this the right thing to be doing?  Finally the book comes out and the publisher starts sending it around to the reviewers.  Lo and behold, it starts getting some good response.

The days comes when the Pulitzer Prize nominees for cookbooks are announced , it’s called the Seagrams Award???  At that time the name had been changed to the International Association of Cooking Professionals Award, but it’s like the Pulitzer Prize of cookbooks.  In the category of Asian cookbooks, there’s different categories, Mexican, Japanese, Native American cooking, there’s French cooking and there’s Asian cooking.  Among the books in the Asian cooking was “Lord Krsna’s Cuisine”.  We’re going crazy, thinking, “If it’s nominated for best cookbook in Asian cookbook category, isn’t that fantastic, we’re lucky just to have been nominated.”  We show up at the Seagrams Building, we go into the hall where these very august chefs were all there to find out who won best cookbooks of the year.  That year we were sure nothing was going to happen because the best chefs in the world had all published books.  Among the crowd there, I don’t know if you are familiar with these names, Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey, Julia Childs, Yan Can Cook, they had all published cookbooks that year.  We all thought, “Gosh, kind of nice just to be in the room with all these celebrated chefs.  We’re sitting down at our little table, Yamuna, Prahlada and myself and the publisher from Dutton, ???was sitting there.

The President of the IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, stands up and says, “Well, this year we have some surprises.  In the category of…”and she mentions the award winners for Mexican food, the award winner for French food, “and this year in the category of Asian cuisine, the winner of best cookbook of the year is Lord Krsna’s Cuisine.”  We’re freaking out, thinking?????  Yamuna very graciously goes up to the dais, and accepts the award, she’s thanking everyone then sits down.  After all these various categories are announced, the time came to announce the winner of the cookbook of the year of all categories.  Not just from a particular region of cuisine or ethnic cuisine but the cookbook that was deemed by this committee of twenty top chefs to be the single most important cookbook of the entire year.  The President of the IACP then gets up to the dais and says, “This year we have another surprise.  For the first time in our history we are awarding our best cookbook of the year award to a non Western cuisine.”  We’re looking at each other, everybody???? She says, “The winner of the Pulitzer Prize of Cookbooks goes to Lord Kr….”  That’s as far as she got, we were screaming like banshees at that point, rolling on the ground, we fell off our chairs.  Yamuna then graciously floats up, tears streaming down her face.  We’re all having horripilations and all the thirty two symptoms of ecstasy???Yamuna’s up there shaking, receiving this award and thanking everybody, thanking Prabhupada and thanking Krsna.  We’re looking around and there’s Julia Childs, Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey looking at each other like, “What world have we just entered?”  We literally went screaming and dancing down Park Ave.  It was a warm day I recall.  We were literally dancing and chanting  “Haribol, Haribol,” running down the street, holding up these awards.  Cabdrivers are looking at us like, “There’s another New York moment.” screaming???down the street.

The notices starting coming out and I just grabbed a few of them which I wanted to read to you.  Here’s the Miami Herald – Devi’s Indian Vegetarian Cooking wins a rave.  The Columbus Dispatcher announces Tome on Krsna’s Cooking brings Unexpected Tastes.  The New York Daily News – For the first time in its twelve year history the cooking industry’s version of the Academy Awards gave top honours to a cookbook devoted to a non Western cuisine, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine – the Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.  Washington Post – Best Cookbook of the Year honoured.  New York Newslist???? – Cookbook Honours Lord Krsna’s Cuisine by Yamuna Devi.  It had always been called too big, too Indian, too vegetarian…



Kusha devi dasi

Yamuna devi dasi was the most eloquent, talented, devout Srila Prabhupada shisa amongst we ladies. She was also the first of the stalwarts to go independent and Srila Prabhuapda gave her his blessings to do so. He commented to her husband, she is more intelligent. She had a practical artistic and profound gift with which she pleased Sri Sri Radha Krishna and our beloved Srila Prabhupada! I lived with her for two weeks during the Holi period around the turn of the century in Mayapur. She commented that I reminded her of Koushalya as we were both irreverent. She was very observant as I am not one prone to awe and veneration. Paraphrased in CC it says, “Where there is awe, it is understood the principle of mercy is no longer in affect.” That aspect of my nature is an aptitude from my Hawaiian heritage and fits right in here in Vrindavan. So I really need the mercy of the Lord like anything!

Mukunda Goswami

This morning we will speak about Yamuna devi, who passed away the day before yesterday.

I have written down some thoughts about Yamuna. I may not be one hundred percent accurate, but I will do my best.
Yamuna studied Calligraphy at Reed College, from Lloyd Reynolds. I also attended Reed College, which was in Portland Oregon. There was a speech by Steve Jobs, who said that basis of the Apple Computer was based on different sizes of fonts, and that he learned Calligraphy. So the only person teaching calligraphy at that time at Reed College was Lloyd Reynolds.
Yamuna was very expert at calligraphy. One of the things she did, among a number of things, was to calligraph the first Bhakti Sastri examinations. They were given in London, in 1969, by Prabhupada. They were certificates. And we had to take an examination, all of us had to take an examination. It consisted of something like ten questions at that time. The Bhakti Sastri course. Things like, who is Krsna? Kind of essay answers. Everyone pretty much passed, and got this certificate.
But she calligraphed, very ornate certificates. Each certificate had a golden seal, maybe three centimeter in diameter and two silver ribbons hanging down from it.
So everyone got one of those certificates. Passing the Bhakti Sastri exam. Everyone meaning, about seven or eight devotees who were at John Lennon’s house at the time.
We were very thrilled to get these certificates, because they looked so good. They were really first class. That was at John Lennon’s house. That was were Prabhupada first came when he arrived.
I am jumping ahead a little bit. When this group was in England, she did some calligraphy which ended up on the front page, it was in Sanskrit, it in an underground newspaper called the International Times. I think we have a picture of this in the book. I will pass these around.
This is the song that we hear every morning, Govindam Adi Purusam, that is Yamuna prabhu singing. This is how it was released then by Apple Records. Part of the EMI.
This one also was a popular record in 1969, there is a picture of Yamuna on the front, and on the back covers. Please handle it carefully. If it gets too many fingerprints or scratches it won’t be very useful. That will be very valuable in the future. I assume. These are some things that I have kept. That is an original.
So Lloyd Reynolds was a very dynamic teacher who taught calligraphy and art at Reed College. Yamuna probably learned her cooking, first, her vedic cooking, from Prabhupada. She was a very natural at preparing and cooking things. About the ninth or tenth of September in 1966, I had a wedding, I was married for three years. The only member of either of my or my wife’s families who came was Yamuna.
She came all the way from Oregon, which is a three thousand mile trip to New York. And Prabhupada taught her how to cook. Some of the things that were served at that feast, I will read from a list of some of the things that were cooked.
It was a pretty ornate feast actually. I shouldn’t be saying these things, but I think at the time Yamuna was smoking, and also every time she touched her face, Prabhupada would make her wash her hands. Because he said it was unclean, because it was like touching the mouth or something. Each time she had to go and wash her hands off.
So these are some of the things that were served: Awe inspiring spicy rice with chunks of homemade cheese and red peppers. Sweet and sour dahl, richly spiced chick pea soup, curried potatoes with peas and eggplants, dumplings in yoghurt sauce sprinkled with coriander leaves and freshly ground spices, whole wheat fried flatbreads (chapattis), deep fried fritters, flaky potato pastries, chunky tomato chutney, spongy paneer globes floating in a sauce of condensed milk, squares of milk fudge.
We sat with our guests in rows on the floor, of his apartment, as dish after dish emerged from the kitchen. Several of our macrobiotic friends threw caution to the wind and abandoned themselves to Swamiji’s culinary delights.This was just too good to resist. An old friend of mine from the past explained, as the Swami emerged from the kitchen with a bowl of sweetened condensed saffron yoghurt.

Anyway, it was a very well received feast. I am going to jump ahead to London. There was an event, somewhere in the northern part of England, I think it was called Harrow on the Hill.
Somehow just a few months after the seven of us arrived in England, three couples and Saraswati, the young baby girl, so six and a quarter I should say.
So we went to this party. It was a costume party. Everyone was in costumes. It was a really elaborate costume party. These people who threw this party, everyone was dressed to the hilt. There were Shakespearean costumes, men in tights with very elaborate head dresses, and all sorts of – it was sort of a costume ball. And when they saw us, they thought we were wearing the most unique costumes of all. We shaved our heads, and the men wore robes. The women wore saris.
Then after a while they realized that this was the way we dressed every day. So then they asked if we had any particular dietary requirements, and we told them that we were strict vegetarians. So they gave us a very elaborate vegetarian meal.
With avocado, a very rich salad. And then there was a structure called a wind tunnel, made of semi clear plastic, in the shape of a long quansat hut type of semi circle. Anyway it was like wind tunnel. We had to go through it, it was about thirty or forty meters long to another place that they had erected. And it was a sort of another very large dome shaped construction. All this was for a party. Can you imagine spending all of this money just for a party? Thousands, maybe millions of pounds were spent on this.
Anyway, we went into this pavilion, held up by wind, fans, air. We sang the Hare Krsna mantra in there. I remember Yamuna was singing. She used to call me Mukhi, that was my nickname to her. I was playing piano standing up, and she was singing, and that went on for maybe three or four hours.
The people in costumes thought it was a very interesting thing. They joined in, they chanted and danced, and had prasadam with us, and they liked it very much. So that was our first outside, out of the temple event. And we considered it a very successful thing. Maybe seventy to a hundred people chanted. It was very nice.
There was a rumour, I don’t know if that is true or not, that Prabhupada wanted Yamuna to be a member of the GBC. That is something that I heard. Of course it didn’t happen. I think there are a few ladies on the GBC now, but at that time, it seemed a very radical thing at that time.
One time, Prabhupada made a sketch, he made a sketch of how the devotees should sit on the stage in Conway Hall, when he would give a series of lectures. Conway Hall was in the center of London. We were staying in a place called Tittenhurst.
So he made a drawing. It consisted of two rectangular tables. (The kinds we have at the Sunday feast) He said that he would sit on, he had the drawing, he made the two tables side by side. And in the middle he had a small rectangle, and that was to be the harmonium. And he said, “This is where Yamuna will sit. Yamuna will sit here. I will sit here. And the Deities will sit here. The Deities were his small Radha Krsna Deities were on one table. He would sit on the other table and Yamuna would sit in the middle playing the harmonium.
So he drew this picture of these three rectangles, the two tables with the small harmonium in the middle. So then the devotees would stand on the sides of the tables, perpendicular to the horizontal position of the tables. There were these two lines.
So I said to Prabhupada, “Maybe we should stand in a bit of a curved way so that people could see us and we could see them. So it wouldn’t be just a straight line looking out at the audience. So he said that would be okay.
So Yamuna led the kirtans, even though Prabhupada was there and was fully capable of leading kirtans. But she led the kirtans, sitting at the harmonium. He would give a class. We found a lecturn, more like a music stand, reaching all the way to the floor, maybe two meters high. He would place his Bhagavatams there, and it would reach up to the height of the table, where he would speak.
So after each class he would ask for questions. Generally they were interesting comments. One evening a man asked “Why did you come to this country, why didn’t you stay in India and preach to the politicians of your country?” In a challenging tone. And Prabhupada, without missing a beat said, “You are a very great politician, therefore I am approaching you.” And the man was completely defeated and he sat back down, he stood up to ask the question, and on hearing Prabhupada’s answer he sat back down. And the whole hall was very silent. Except for Yamuna who let out this very deep laugh, and it echoed throughout the hall. And that was the end of that. Prabhupada’s answer to that man’s question.
I also heard also, that when George Harrison heard Yamuna’s singing, he wanted to make her a celebrity singer, because he was involved in a record company at that time.
Next to Prabhupada, she is one of the most heard voices, because this Govindam adi purusam, is played all over the world, in hundreds of temples, every day. So it is kind of a testimony to the greatness of her singing, and the devotion with which she sang.
Actually there is an interesting story that I wrote about. It took place when Govindam first came out, when the recording was first released. I was in England, and she was in England, and we sent this to the devotees in Los Angeles, to show how we were really preaching big time to the Beatles and we did this record, and so on and so forth.
But the devotees in Los Angelos didn’t want Prabhupada to hear this because they thought it was very strange that a woman’s voice would be leading the Hare Krsna mantra. And so they didn’t let Prabhupada hear it.
So one morning, just before the greeting of the Deities. Prabhupada was sitting on his vyasasana. When the Deity doors open in Los Angelos, there is a big billow of smoke, incense smoke, from the charcoals. The devotees use a lot of incense and when they open the doors, it kind of pours out like a big cloud coming out.
So right before this Prabhupada said, “What about that record that the devotees sent from London?” He had heard about it. So they told him, ‘it is just Yamuna singing, we don’t want you to hear it.” And they said, “There is no place to play it.” So he said, “Just play it on the system. The speakers.”
So in Los Angelos temple there are very large speakers, and where they play lectures. So when they told Prabhupada there was nothing to play it on, he said, “Just play it on the speakers.” So they said “Okay” And very reluctantly they went and fetched this recording, and played it. And it was just at the time, it is about six minutes long.
At this the Deity doors opened. Prabhupada was sitting on his vyasasana, and he didn’t say a word. He just listened with his eyes closed. And devotees got to see streams of tears coming down his cheeks. And that day Prabhupada ordered that that song be played in temples all over the world at the time of greeting the Deities.
So that was the end of that controversy. Except in December 12th, 1975 when Prabhupada got the letter from a devotee who also had a recording, a gentleman I won’t mention his name, he made a recording of Govindam, and he wrote this letter to Prabhupada saying that he thought it was improper for this Govindam led by a female voice be played in temples all over the world. And he said that I want to replace it now with my recording. And he sent a copy of his recording to Prabhupada.
Prabhupada was in India at the time, in Vrndavana no less. When he got it. So I have a copy of the letter that Prabhupada wrote back to this devotee:
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 2, 1975. No! You have made some discovery. All along you have been hearing the recording of Yamuna devi and now you want to change. It is not ordinary singing. It is concert. Many people are singing. So it is not bad. Just like sankirtana. Many voices are there, men and women. So it is the same thing, sankirtana. So I approve of it. Here in Hare Krsna Balarama Temple we are hearing the same recording every morning. So it is good here, why not there?
(he had probably heard from another country probably the United States)
Hope this finds you well, etc. etc.
Devotee: Maharaja, didn’t he also say, why are you changing things? You always change..
Mukunda: And now you want to change. That is in the letter. He may have said that, I don’t know who HD is, that is who transcribed the letter.
Her cooking skills were kind of heavenous, right from the very first times that she started cooking. That was in San Francisco with the devotees. She cooked a preparation called Celestial Bananas. It was bananas made with sour cream. And it was a very filling thing to eat. I remember on time we went over to where Yamuna was living on Ashbury Street. And by the way she lived directly across from where the Grateful Dead lived. There was a devotee named Sudama who lived there also. Directly across the road.
Anyway, before eating, we heard a flute in the distance, and we thought, oh, that is Tommy’s flute playing. That is Tamal Krsna Maharaja, because he was invited to come there. He was in brahmacari category, we were in grhastha category. He was invited, and then after everyone ate that meal, including the celestial bananas for desert, everyone just sort of passed out in front of their plate, without washing up or anything, and woke up about three hours later. And went back home or where they came from.
Once when we were in England, Prabhupada was staying initially at John Lennon’s house in the servants quarters. He had a room there. He had a two room flat. The devotees used to cook in the lower part of the flat, in the kitchen, and Prabhupada stayed in the upper part. I think that was at the time when he went on radio to say that England was always healthy because it was always misty and damp and rainy. It was always very damp and rainy in that place called Tittenhurst Park.
They had imported a lot of Redwood trees from California, that is why they called it park. Yoko was there at the time. Anyways, somehow Yamuna, I think it was Janaki who actually started the fire in the kitchen. Yamuna came up to Prabhupada’s room, all blackened by the soot from the fire. She was very upset, and she said, “Prabhupada, Janaki started a fire in your kitchen.” And Prabhupada in order to diffuse the situation, to take her anger away said, “I have announced I am going to the moon, and Janaki says I can’t go. The devotees are going to go, but I can’t go with them.”
And Yamuna was so taken back by this statement of Prabhupada, that she began to laugh and just forgot about the whole incident. The whole thing was diffused at that time and forgotten.
Also the Govinda record became a very popular record in different countries, and there was something called the winter Olympics about two years ago. There was an ice skating competition. And each country entered the contest and had ice skaters jumping and twirling. A couple from Armenia entered and they played this record, this six minute song, was the music for their figure skating. It was televised in many countries around the world.
Once when some devotees had gone down Oxford Street chanting Hare Krsna, and people would come up to the devotees and say, “Oh, I saw you on Top of the Pops.” And they wanted to get their autographs and so on. And one devotee had heard Govinda, and said, “Oh that was a very sad song.” But they had heard it, but they had heard it and it was (inaudible) like Prabhupada said sophisticated concert.
Any way, those are some thoughts, maybe someone else would like to say something? Or add anything?
Devotee: Paraphrased: one devotee took some clothing to a designer in Paris, and he bought them all and on the runway while showing the clothing, the Govindam song was played.
Devotee: I had visited Saranagati in B.C., another devotee and I were travelling distributing books across America. I visited her asrama, a nice mud brick house that she had built. She was right into simple living and was very civil. She was extremely friendly, she welcomed us and we had a small chat and I remember that because we were doing sankirtana she found us some bread to carry on our journey. I found her very warm and caring, for the fact that we were so far from home and she wanted to take care of us a little bit. Like that.
Devotee: I was in England, three years ago, for the fortieth anniversary, and she was there. Of course I got the privilege to hear her sing face to face. I was sitting and singing in the temple once and she was going to speak, and she sat next to me for maybe twenty minutes, and later she called me and said, “Oh, you are a very good singer, you trained.” I felt really embarrassed, “No, mataji, we hear you every morning. We have been hearing you every morning since we were in gurukula.”
You can find people who say, ‘Just be humble.” You find many people who say like that, it is part of the punchline. But she was very genuine, I felt an energy from her, she was very, very humble, the way she said, “Oh, I haven’t learned anything, I just sing.” So I was very impressed by that.
Devotee: One of Yamuna’s, what I thought was one of Yamuna’s outstanding qualities was the deep affection she had for Srila Prabhupada. Whenever she started to talk of Srila Prabhupada, you could see the affection would just come out. I guess you would call it love for Prabhupada. It wasn’t sort of something superficial, you could see it was genuine.
Mukunda: That kind of reminded me of something else I should have said. In England when we first went over there, one of the few times that everyone would be assembled together would be at prasadam. And at that time she would always read. I mean every time the devotees got together she would read. Usually from Chaitanya Caritamrta. Because she knew it was just going to be prajalpa time if she didn’t read. But for whatever reason, it was a sign of her deep dedication to Krsna consciousness philosophy, that she would read constantly out loud to all of us.
Devotee: One point we were discussing a few months ago, we were discussing about Yamuna, one point was brought up how expert Yamuna was at these Vaisnava arts. Because Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja, in his commentary on Brahma Samhita that there are 64 arts of Vrndavana. And that Radharani herself, She is expert in all 64, and these arts are actually the ingredients of rasa, it is how we express our devotion. When I heard about, we know that Yamuna was a fabulous singer, like you said, she had this single, which was a number one single. I heard previously that she had studied dance as well. I heard that she was considered to be quite the brilliant (inaudible ) and you mentioned the calligraphy. Also we know that she wrote the cookbook, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine – it was an International best seller. Also it was awarded cook book for the year.
So a number of these vaisnava arts, she was very expert at. And she actually visited us at Mayapur Academy a few times, and (inaudible) and specifically in cooking. I remember she was very focused on her cooking, and she really encouraged the devotees should pursue ( inaudible) the art. In fact she sent us one document, trying to improve our cooking (unit?). And it had about fifty different techniques that you could use in cooking. Some of these words I had never even heard of before. Like, basting, roasting, slicing, steaming, infusing, this and that. And she really emphasized that you can learn the technique first. You can learn recipes later. First I can learn all these techniques. About twenty different ways you can cut vegetables.
But she was quite enthusing that we should be serious about learning this art. Not that it was something random. At one point she was emphasizing in regards to the cooking, that she really liked this idea of signature preparations. She said it was quite famous that a Deity was famous for a certain preparation.
People might go and see a certain Deity and
Devotee: Jaipur –
Devotee: Jaipur there is ladhu, Mahavendra Puri, Ksira Ksora Gopinath. And her own Deity. Banabehari. And she used to make this preparation was something like crystallized sugar with (?) and saffron in it and she would distribute it wherever she went. She was really encouraged that as devotee chefs we should have our own signature preps and become expert at. And for individual Deities, we should figure out what is that that Deity likes, and the temple becomes famous for that.
Devotee: Yamuna’s Deity, Banabehari, how she got that Deity was that when the Vrndavana Temple was being built, she was doing the service of organizing the Deities for the temple. She went to Jaipur and organized Radha Syamasundara and the other Deities. But also Prabhupada had asked her to have smaller Radha Krsna Deities that were installed at the same time. And he instructed her that these Deities ( some noise, the microphones have trouble…)
Prabhuapada had asked Yamuna to organize the Deities for Vrndavana, and the small Radha Krsna Deities that are on the altar now were installed at the installation. And Prabhupada had instructed Yamuna that these Deities should look like Radha Ramana. And then she had gone to the murti wallas in Vrndavana, and several times she brought the Deities to Srila Prabhupada, and he wasn’t satisfied. And the last time she made two sets of Deities, and then Prabhupada was satisfied. So one set of the Deites went on the altar with are now worshipped as Chota Radha Syamasundara, and the other set of Deities were kept in a trunk, at Bhagavatjis place, which is where Tamal Krsna used to live. And as Yamuna was leaving Vrndavana, and she asked Prabhupada, what about those Deities in the trunk, I would like to worship Them. And Prabhudpada said yes, she could worship those Deities. So They are Banabehari.
Also prabhu was also talking about the last time Yamuna was in Mayapur. And she came over to Mayapur Academy several times. She had some health challenges. When it was time for her to leave Maypur Academy, several of us had gone down to see her off. And as she was getting on to the rickshaw, to leave Maypur Academy, she looked at every person in the face, very intently and closely, and said, “I love you all.” And that was the last we saw her.
Mukunda: Thought of a couple of other things. Her book, the cookbook, Lord Krsna’s Cuisine, is used in many temples. And in these days of demand for manuals, for construction, horticulture, many things, management. There is a couple of things, books, that is one of them.
The other one is the Deity book that Krsna Ksetra wrote. That are used. They are pretty constant things. Every temple you go to, the prasadam is the same, the smell is the same, the taste is the same, and the Deity worship is the same. So that is a great credit to Yamuna that she could get this book for a manual for Vedic cooking.
And another thing that I could tell another story was when there were no Deities in London, a man offered the Deities. He said, I have some Deities that I want to donate to the temple. And we though this was kind of a flakey thing, we didn’t trust him. So we said, “Prabhupada, you shouldn’t go.” But he said he wanted to go. First we went, then he went. And then he was talking to the guests, and Yamuna was there, and the discussion was in Hindi. And I don’t think any of the white people there knew, And we didn’t know what they were saying, it was a very serious conversation that went on for about an hour. Then it turned into a jovial thing, there were all laughing, they were all laughing. And in the course of their laughing, Prabhupada said, “We have a man,” he gestured to Yamuna. “We have a man,” and he gestured to Yamuna. And what we found out that one of the Deities was very seriously damaged, and they wanted to repair the Deities before donating to us. They weren’t going to let us take the Deites away then.
And Yamuna didn’t know Hindi either. So he said, “We have a man.” And then the conversation resumed. And then he said to Yamuna, ‘You can fix it?” And she said, “Oh yes, Prabhudpada.” She didn’t really have any idea exactly what he was talking about, but she said, “Oh yes.”
And then Prabhudpada asked the devotees. There was a devotee there named Radha Ramana, from San Diego. He said, “Radha Ramana, you can see just how heavy Krsna is?” This was a meter high Deity, the London Iswara Deity now. And he said, “no not very heavy.” So Prabhupada said, ‘Well you can take Him out to the van.” And he resumed the jovial conversation, kind of distracting them, because they didn’t really want to give Them to us right then.
And then he asked another couple of devotees to see how heavy Radharani was and to take Her out to the van as well. So when They were both out in the van, Prabhupada kept the conversation going in Hindi, everyone was jovial and laughing, and then it was time to leave. Prabhupada kept the conversation going, and everyone was in a very good mood when we left.
And then when we got a little further away, from the house. It took place in a house. They were members of the East London Hindu Center, something like that
One devotee said to Prabhupada, “I think you kidnapped Krsna.” And Prabhupada just laughed and laughed. And Yamuna was in the van, and Prabhupada laughed and laughed and laughed, and said, “Yes, at one time I was trying to get a loan from the bank, and the bank manager refused to give me the loan. But after a while, I convinced him to give me the loan.” And the man said to me, “Mr. De, you should have been a politician.” And Prabhupada just laughed and laughed and laughed. Because he had just kidnapped the Deities in a very friendly way.
So I remember Yamuna did the repair work, and those Deities are being worshipped, and still are being worshipped, as we can see.
Hare Krsna.
Devotee: Another thing about Yamuna which is really quite extraordinary was her humility. I was just speaking with Malati about this yesterday. Yamuna would often speak in the third person, she would never refer to herself directly. And even like yesterday, I was listening to those Prabhupada memory tapes, and she was talking about Prabhupada, and she said, “And then Yamuna did this and then Yamuna did that.” And she was talking about herself.
Also, several times over the years, I had tried to record her and find out the instructions Prabhupada had given her about Deity worship. And the only time she agreed to do it, my tape recorder broke. Must have been Krsna’s arrangement.
Devotee: Not too long ago, we had an email, that the cookbook, which is a thousand pages long, She said she had reduced it from four thousand pages. So if anyone is finished with those thousand pages of recipes, I guess there is still another three thousand pages. (inaudible)
Mukunda: that reminds me that Yamuna probably has a very tall stack of papers that were meant to be put into a book form, it is probably going to happen in the future. Very large, it would amount to about four or five thousand book pages or something.
Devotee: Is that cooking?
Mukunda: It is other things. There is cooking in it, But it is not all about cooking. It is like memoirs.
Devotee: I can attest to the fact that the cookbook was much larger because when she first released it, it was in two sections, and it was a notebook, white cover, cloth bound creamy grey and it was just photocopies..
Mukunda: So probably, in the ensuing months we are going to see copies of the other pages of the cookbook, and her memoirs. In some form or another.
Devotee: She was also working on years ago, she never finished it, but when Yamuna was in India, she had travelled to different temples and taken notes from the Deity worship. Even Radha Ramana, she used to go in every day and hand draw the way they dressed the Deities, especially the mukuts and turban pieces and things like that. And she never finished that.
Mukunda: so we have some very precise and elaborate writings, about Deities, about cooking and about Prabhupada, which are probably going to be published post humously.
And that is my guess, they are not just going to disappear.
Devotee: When I was in Vrndavana, our gurukula asrama we got the fortune of meeting Mataji, in the MVT. And she was telling us a lot of stories about Prabhupada and her relationship.
One of them that really stuck out to me was that she said that Prabhupada had a nick name for her,
Mukunda: Prabhupada had a nick name for her?
Devotee: I can’t remember the Sanskrit for it, but apparently it just meant useless (?) Something along those lines.
And she was in charge of course of taking care of Prabhupada’s things, and she used to clean Prabhupada’s room. And from what I heard, Prabhupada was very particular about his table, and everything should go exactly where it was.
And she was a meticulous cleaner. One of her qualities. Apparently one time, after she was done cleaning, she had made sure she did all the edges and everything. He opened the door and took out – he opened a drawer or he opened a plastic cover, and inside that there was a stapler. This is after she had really scrubbed the place. He opened up the stapler, and then put his little finger into the stapler and came out with a little spot of dust and said, “Useless.”
That was really amazing quality of humility beyond a doubt, but her realization on that was even more amazing to me. She said that from that she could really feel that Prabhupada was training them to standards that they could worship Radha and Krsna personally.
Mukunda: So we can now do a pushpanjali for Yamuna.
Hare Krsna.

Nama Cintamani devi dasi

Mother Yamuna came to my life right at the beginning of my Krsna consciousness, or rather, in a sense, she brought me to the Krsna consciousness movement. It was during the early days of our movement in South Africa. His Holiness Partha Sarathi Das Goswami Maharaja was a pioneer preacher in South Africa, and he had started tent programs in the suburbs of Chatsworth. He used to put up a big pandal, and he followed the full morning program with a few bhaktas. Then during the day they would do sankirtana, selling books from door to door and giving invitations for the evening pandal program, which consisted of kirtana, a class on the Bhagavad-gita, a play, and a short kirtana. During prasada he would show a Krsna conscious film.

One day soon after my return from India, the pandal program came to where I lived—in 1978. I could see the pandal from our balcony, and I could hear the bhajanas being played. On the first morning, I heard mother Yamuna’s rendering of the Brahma-samhita (Govindam prayers). I remember being very moved and just wanting to hear the Govindam prayers again and again. That afternoon after I returned from school, I was meditating on the beautiful prayer that I had heard in the morning. I eagerly went to the evening pandal program and asked who had sung the song I had heard that morning. The devotees told me that the Beatles were instrumental in making the recording. I remember going to regular record shops, but I did not find it. Only many months later was I able to get to the bottom of the mystery of the recording, when I started regularly visiting the preaching center and the temple at the Cato Ridge farm and learned that Mother Yamuna, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, was the lead singer. During my stay at the temple I made a point to always be on time for the greeting of the Deities so that I could hear the Govindam prayers. I did not realize that I was being transformed by hearing a pure devotee’s devotional singing of the beautiful prayers to the Lord.

Then I read Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, and after reading the Lilamrta I developed a desire to meet Mother Yamuna and the different devotees who had played such a vital role in helping Srila Prabhupada establish his worldwide movement.

The first time I met Mother Yamuna was in the early 1990s, at Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Mumbai, when she had arrived with Dinatarini Prabhu to collect some information on cooking recipes for her cookbook. By my guru maharaja’s mercy, I came to India in the late eighties and early nineties and was able to stay in Mumbai for the next few years. As she had arrived just before the closing of the altar, we tried to hurry her a little so she wouldn’t miss the Deities’ darsana. But she didn’t rush at all. She was very graceful as she headed straight to Srila Prabhupada. When she offered her flowers to him, it took her very long, as she stood there looking at him lovingly, making very slow circles while offering her prayers to her eternal spiritual master. We could see how much love and reverence she had for her Srila Prabhupada. She then had darsana of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihariji, the Deities she’d served for some time.

In the next few days we learned so many lessons in her exalted association. Once, when we took her a big plate of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari’s maha-prasada, she respected one morsel from the bowl of sweet rice and then indicated that she was finished. We learned that maha-prasada is respected—not that we eat a whole plate of the Lord’s remnants.

Mother Yamuna said that she used to dress Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. However, one day she was unable to do so, and His Holiness Tatpara Swami (then a brahmacari) dressed Them. Because he was not familiar with Their paraphernalia, there was some mix up, and when the curtains opened, Mother Yamuna noticed the changes. But Srila Prabhupada commented that the Deities looked beautiful and asked who had dressed Them. And Mother Yamuna realized that Srila Prabhupada was seeing just the essence of his devotion, that Srila Prabhupada could see the external and the internal condition of his disciples.

Mother Yamuna perfectly and fully represented SrilaPrabhupada. One of Srila Prabhupada’s outstanding qualities that affects me most is his oceanic love for his disciples and for every living being. One incident that highlights Srila Prabhupada’s love is illustrated in the following story. Mother Yamuna had been cooking for Srila Prabhupada, but then she fell ill, and on the first day of her absence from her service Srila Prabhupada asked, “Where is Yamuna?” No one knew. On the third day of this, Srila Prabhupada looked and found mother Yamuna lying in a corner somewhere. She was suffering from jaundice. He called, “Yamuna! Yamuna!” and she thought she must have been dreaming, but when she managed to open her eyes, she saw Srila Prabhupada looking down at her. She couldn’t believe that he had come to see her. He told her, “Don’t’ worry. Everything will be taken care of.” He moved the brahmacaris living next to his room, supervised the cleaning of the room, and had Mother Yamuna moved to that room. Then he directed the devotees what diet and medicine to give her, and she slowly recovered under his loving parental care.

Because of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions from his spiritual mater and his love for the suffering living entities, he left the shores of India and came to the West, where he experienced so many difficulties to establish this worldwide movement. Like him, Mother Yamuna also exhibited her love and deep compassion for godbrothers, godsisters,  well-wishers, friends of ISKCON, and just ordinary living entities. She dealt with every one as Srila Prabhupada would have. I don’t think Mother Yamuna harmed or offended anyone in her life.

Srila Prabhupada was very particular about cleanliness. He also appreciated Mother Yamuna for her cleanliness (internal  and external). I have heard on different occasions how she would clean the kitchen counters as well as the paraphernalia and only then begin to cook an offering. Once in Vrndavana, I saw her offering bhoga, which was a special experience. She had her eyes closed and was gracefully dancing from one end of the room to the other and with great feeling slowly chanting the prayers. She was in no hurry to finish the offering. Once again I realized that she was on a completely different and a very high level of devotional service. Later, both my godsister Nitya Sakhi and I tasted Mother Yamuna’s love-laden prasada, and both of us agreed that we had never tasted such nectar before. Krsna and Srila Prabhupada had surely accepted her offering of love.

Mother Yamuna did not think that she was worthy of any service or worship. One really had to beg to do some menial service for her. And if one ever got a chance to do even some small service, she would not forget and would reciprocate by giving some small token of appreciation. When she was leaving Mumbai to begin her cooking adventure (in preparation for her cookbook), I asked if I could prepare some prasada for the journey, and she asked if I could make some theplas. I asked her if she could give me a recipe I could follow, but she waved me off, saying that I would be able to make them without one. I was really in great trepidation, because she was such a world-class cook, and being very advanced, would know that the theplas had been made without any devotion. But actually, when I offered them to her she accepted them very gratefully—thankfully and with a kind loving smile. Later, when she was leaving, she turned around and gave me a warm, loving, and motherly hug. She made me feel so special, though I felt that I didn’t deserve it. She was such an elevated devotee, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, but she still extended herself to me out of her natural love and also out of her love for my guru maharaja, His Holiness Giriraj Swami, who engaged me in her service and whom she respected and appreciated for his great love and his surrendered loving service to Srila Prabhupada. Later I received a note from Mothers Yamuna and Dinatarini thanking me for the theplas and stating that they liked them!

On another occasion, Mother Yamuna sent me a long quote on the glories of the holy name, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura—which points to yet another aspect of her great advancement and elevated nature, her faith in and attachment for the holy name of the Lord. Whether I saw her in person or on videos, or on stage at a pandal with Srila Prabhupada, she sang with her eyes closed, concentrating intensely on the sound vibration. Once, she told me that in Saranagati, Canada, the only thing she and Mother Dinatarini put in the ether was the holy name. Actually, there was never a time when I saw her not chanting the holy name. She was constantly chanting the holy name and inspiring others to chant. One example is that when she was on her way to the doctor in Mumbai, she engaged the driver in singing bhajanas and kirtanas throughout the drive to and from the hospital, and by the time they returned, the driver was in complete spiritual bliss, by her causeless mercy. She was not shy to express her love for chanting, and on more than one occasion I watched as she danced her way down a path in the MVT guest house at Vrndavana, singing the Hare Krsna mantra in complete absorption. Very mercifully, she invited Nitya Sakhi and me to the morning program she and Mother Visakha held at their MVT Flat. She gave me a pair of small kartalas, but I was not in tune with her singing, and on numerous occasions she turned around to look at me. The whole experience was so intense that I never went back for the morning program (thinking that I should not be disturbing her in her intense meditation), which I now very much regret. In her presence I felt that she had realized that Krsna and His name are nondifferent.

I heard from my spiritual master how she had helped him on one occasion when he had asked her if she thought he could approach Srila Prabhupada with a question he had; she encouraged him, saying that Srila Prabhupada would be so pleased and happy to answer the questions of one so surrendered to his service, and my guru maharaja was really grateful for her guidance and encouragement.

Mother Yamuna was very humble and did not like to be in the limelight. In such a mood she attended my guru maharaja’s classes on The Nectar of Devotion. As she was humbly sitting on the floor, he asked her to sit on a chair, but when she resisted, he got up and insisted she sit on the chair (or he would sit on the floor too). Only then did she agree to sit on the chair.

I could feel the great reciprocal love and respect that my guru maharaja and Mother Yamuna shared. He said that Srila Prabhupada gave us so many gifts, big and small. I feel that the greatest gift he gave us is the association and service of his wonderful, loving, dedicated disciples, whose love and surrender to their spiritual master are eternal sources of inspiration for us and will be for future generations of devotees.

One day at a program at the home of Krishna Kirtan and Kandarpa-manjari in America, Mother Yamuna arrived, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. When we met at the end of the program, she mercifully hugged me and showered me with so much love. During our conversation, when she heard that I was going for surgery within the next few days, she showed such genuine concern. She told me that she and a few other senior devotees were going to participate in a japa retreat and chant sixty-four rounds. She said that she was going to send all her mercy to me, and she wished me to have speedy recovery. I was so overwhelmed by her love and compassion. During my recuperation I could feel my spiritual master’s and her mercy flowing towards me.

One time at the annual Pune Yatra I got so surprised and excited and happy when I heard that Mother Yamuna and Mother Malati were there. I wanted to meet Mother Yamuna again and also hoped to get some service. His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja’s disciples kindly allowed me to meet her. I was shy and a little hesitant, as I didn’t know if she would remember me, but as soon as she heard my name she caught my hand and patted the chair next to her and made me feel so comfortable. Once again I was fortunate and privileged to hear her sing the Sri-guru-vandana prayer during the retreat, which was such an out-of-this-world experience. The experience was further heightened by Mother Malati’s devotional offering of arati to her beloved master, Srila Prabhupada.

Radhanath Maharaja and Mother Yamuna also had great respect, appreciation, and love for each other. Radhanath Maharaja recognized Mother Yamuna’s exalted personality and appreciated the many special services she had expertly rendered to Srila Prabhupada and to ISKCON. By his inviting Mother Yamuna to the Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath temple, his disciples and devotees in general in India received the golden opportunity to serve and associate with {such} an advanced devotee and thus make tangible progress in devotional service.

One day, while we were sitting in Krsna-Balarama Mandira near the tamala tree, I asked Mother Yamuna, “How can I serve you?” to which she replied, “You can give me krsna- prema.” I said, “Oh, Mother Yamuna, you have got krsna-prema; you can give me krsna- prema.” And she again replied, “No, you give me krsna-prema.” I have heard that those who have krsna-prema think that every one else besides themselves has it.

I witnessed something special at one of the mangala-aratis at Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi. Mother Yamuna went to the upper floor, where she played her little kartalas softly and sang Sri Gurv-astaka as usual with deep devotion and her eyes closed throughout, slowly swaying from side to side. She was completely immersed in the whole mood of Gurv-astaka, and after the prayers she went to the back of the samadhi and put her head on the wall there and sang the full song “Gurudeva,” from Saranagati, with feelings of great separation from her beloved Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada had said in the ’70s that Mother Yamuna was on the platform of bhava. Now, after thirty years, I with my tiny brain cannot fathom what a high platform of devotional service she was on.

Mother Yamuna was not at all on the bodily platform. She never complained about her physical condition or pain. Although she was suffering, she was immersed in the chanting of the holy names and other services, following in the footsteps of her spiritual master.

I am indebted to my guru maharaja. By his mercy I received the association and service of one of Srila Prabhupada’s beloved and most advanced lady disciples, from whom I learned so much. I ask Mother Yamuna to forgive me for not writing her, although she gave me her address in Saranagati. I also ask forgiveness for any shortcoming and offenses I caused in her service. I was devastated when I heard the news of her passing away. Somehow, by the arrangement of the Lord, I found myself with disciples of His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja at Bhaktivedanta Hospital. The devotees had served her for many months, and by hearing the glorious heartfelt accounts of their intense experiences with Mother Yamuna—and Radhanath Maharaja’s lengthy glorification of Mother Yamuna at Chowpatty the next day—I  was able to deal with the grief and intense feeling of separation from her.

She is now with her beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and her worshipable Lordships. I pray to her to bless me with one tiny drop of her infinite qualities.

All glories to Her Loving Grace Mother Yamuna.


Departure Announcements

ISKCON News Release


Yamuna Devi, Spiritual Pioneer & Award Winning Author (1942-2011)
Krishna devotees commemorate the life of one of the first American-born,
female pioneers of Vaishnava culture in the West
Date: December 21, 2011
Keshava Sharma (416) 616-5136 –
North American Director of Communications, ISKCON
Anuttama das – (301) 299-9707 –
International Director of Communications, ISKCON
WASHINGTON (December 21, 2011) – Yamuna Devi, a pioneer and influential early western
convert of the Hare Krishna movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
(ISKCON), passed away early yesterday morning in Melbourne Beach, Florida.
From meeting the Beatles and recording albums with George Harrison in London to travelling
throughout India and leading kirtans in front of thousands, Yamuna Devi also published a first-ofits-
kind authentic vegetarian Indian cook book, which won top international awards. She had
dedicated the last 45 years of her life to the worship of Lord Krishna and was a beloved member
and well known figure of the Hare Krishna movement.
Born Joan Campanella, Yamuna Devi’s first encounter with ISKCON was in September of 1966
through her sister and it was then that she met with the movement’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Srila Prabhupada. She soon became one of the first western adherents of India’s ancient
Vaishnava, or devotional, culture and was given the name Yamuna devi dasi.
Yamuna Devi is credited with being one of the most influential and inspiring voices during
ISKCON’s fledgling years. The movement now boasts over 400 international temples, farm
communities, restaurants and eco-villages. During a time when immigration laws opened up the
opportunity for waves of South Asians to come to the West and assimilate with American culture,
she embodied a unique voice that spoke of maintaining the values of the spiritual heritage of
Malati devi dasi, Governing Body Commission member of ISKCON comments, “Yamuna Devi
was known for her deeply spiritual qualities and connection with Srila Prabhupada, her glorious
offering of the Govindam prayers that are chanted daily in our temples, her love of kirtan, her
ecstatic award-winning cookbooks which were infused with spiritual anecdotes, and for greatly
inspiring and encouraging the younger generation of ISKCON devotees in their faith.”
In August, 1968 Yamuna Devi along with her husband, Guru Dasa, and four other disciples of
Srila Prabhupada broke new ground as they brought Hare Krishna culture to London, England.
Still relative newcomers to the faith and tradition, they arrived in the United Kingdom with no
financial or institutional support and only the hopes of introducing the worship of Lord Krishna to
the British people. Despite the lack of resources, money and contacts, they achieved staggering
success and eventually connected with the Beatles and struck a strong relationship with George
It was with Harrison that they soon descended upon the iconic Apple Studios, famous for
churning out many albums for the Beatles, and recorded both the Hare Krishna mantra and the
Govindam prayers, consisting of ancient Sanksrit verses. Yamuna Devi, a natural musician, led
the vocals for the Govindam recording and the composition, produced and accompanied by
Harrison himself, was released to the public and topped the European music charts along with the
Hare Krishna chant. To this day, Yamuna Devi’s voice can be heard in every ISKCON temple
during morning services when the Govindam bhajan is played for the deities of Radha and
Having also travelled to India with Srila Prabhupada during the Hare Krishna movement’s
formative years, Yamuna Devi imbibed the culture of Krishna worship into her heart. She served
as the personal cook for Srila Prabhupada for eight years which laid the foundation for what
became her globally-recognized culinary abilities.
She later wrote, “For two years, I was part of a group that accompanied Srila Prabhupada on
extensive tours of the subcontinent that gave me the opportunity to learn from scores of famous
temple brahamana cooks. In some cases, I was privileged to be the first Westerner allowed in
previously restricted temple kitchens.”
She later published her own cookbook entitled, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian
Vegetarian Cooking” which garnered multiple awards, including the International Association of
Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year.
Spending recent years in Western Canada where she dedicated her efforts to promoting
vegetarianism and environmental sustainability, Yamuna Devi eventually relocated to a Krishna
community in Florida.
In the coming days, Hare Krishna followers around the world plan to commemorate Yamuna
Devi’s contributions to their movement and her expression of Vaishnava culture. As Yamuna
Devi herself noted: “Looking back, when I first climbed the stairs to Prabhupada’s apartment, I
could never have imagined the treasure of transcendental philosophy, music, art and cuisine that
awaited me.”

GBC Announcement



With great sadness, the Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON, deeply mourn the departure of Her Grace Yamuna Devi. She dedicated the last 45 years of her life to the worship of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. She was a mentor, guide, and friend to many and a beloved member and hero of ISKCON. At every ISKCON temple, her singing of “Govindam” greets the Lord.

Yamuna Devi was one of the most influential devotees during ISKCON’s fledgling years. She was among a handful of people who established ISKCON’s first. Those who came to ISKCON in later years joined an established society, but Yamuna Devi was one of the few who established that society.

Yamuna Devi explained something of her relationship with Prabhupada while addressing the GBC in 2000, “In both men and women, Srila Prabhupada observed our propensities and expertly dovetailed them in his preaching mission. For many years, in different countries and circumstances, I had the good fortune to render personal service to him. He trained me, urged me to accept more and more responsibility, and regularly asked me to lead kirtanas, give classes, arrange programs, manage departments, provide comforts for visiting devotees, meet with leaders, and actively promulgate Krishna consciousness. In ISKCON India, where previously no women were allowed, he sent me to various temples to learn cooking and Deity worship, and he repeatedly asked me to train others in the same.”

Yamuna Devi was well known for her own caring and compassionate nature. Though famous in ISKCON and beyond, she was kind and un-pretentious.  She was always singing or chanting Hare Krishna, and had focused attention on whatever service she was doing. Her cleanliness standards were immaculate and she dedicated herself to following Prabhupada’s instructions in her actions, words, character, and heart. Whoever met her experienced through her both Prabhupada’s uncompromising standards and his love.

She published her own cookbook entitled, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” which garnered multiple awards, including the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year. She spent her time in recent years mostly in Saranagati, a farm community in Western Canada teaching devotees by precept and example.

Yamuna Devi’s mood can be appreciated in a personal offering to Srila Prabhupada in 2002, “Dear Srila Prabhupada, I remember how kirtan was so intense and joyous in your presence. How time and place dissolved in those kirtans. How your thumbs lifted off the surface of your kartalas as they sizzled in sound, and how your vocal cords and mouth vibrated and extended as you filled a space with hauntingly beautiful transcendental sound vibrations. I remember losing myself in that sound and wishing never to leave this space or your presence. In this connection, I pray, even if only one more time, to hold the microphone for you as you chant your favorite Vaishnava prayer–Hari Hari Biphale–as experienced that final time at Akash Ganga in Mumbai. … I pray that one day in the future I may see you face to face again. This vision may be many lifetimes in front of me, but I do not see any goal worth achieving, however slow or difficult, or impossible this task may seem from my fallen position. There is nothing else more appealing. Please bless me with the perseverance to continue on the path to meet you.”
Your eternal servant, Yamuna Devi

We lament the departure of our dear godsister and Srila Prabhupada’s dear daughter Yamuna Devi from our material vision– and rejoice in her reunion with him as she desired.


Articles on Memorials

Alachua Memorial 2011

– by Madhava Smullen

Around 200 devotees attended a memorial service for Yamuna Devi, an ISKCON pioneer, award-winning chef and much loved friend and guide, in Alachua, Florida on Tuesday December 27th.
Yamuna, who was famous for singing the Govindam prayers played every morning at every ISKCON temple, as well as bringing Krishna consciousness to San Francisco and London, had spent three months at Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai in early 2011 due to a weak heart. She seemed to recover, but later on December 20th, 2011 she passed away at age 69 due to further heart complications at her oceanside ashram in Melbourne, Florida.
“It was a few days after the appearance day of her beloved Deities Radha-Banabihari on December 14th, which she always celebrated with great pomp,” says Yamuna Devi’s friend Nirmala Dasi. “Some devotees were still staying with her by December 19th, and they had a beautiful kirtan that night. Yamuna was experiencing some chest pains, but they seemed to pass, and she went to bed. The next morning at 6:00am, her close friend and confidante Dinatarini Dasi checked in on her and she had passed on, during the sacred early morning Brahama-Muhurta hours. She was lying with her hand in her beadbag, and her face was serene. It was very auspicious.”
On December 22nd, a cremation ceremony was held for Yamuna Devi at a funeral home in local Melbourne where staff allowed Dinatarini and another friend, Srutirupa Dasi, to prepare her body with tilak, fresh cloth and Ganga water. The ceremony was attended by her close friends Malati Dasi—who accompanied her to London in the 1960s—Rangavati, Kartamasa and Radha.
The funeral ceremony was followed by many memorial services all over the world, including December 27th’s Alachua event.
For the service, the Alachua community’s temple room was decorated beautifully with potted plants and flowers. The lighting was dim, with candles illuminating photos of Srila Prabhupada, Yamuna, and her Deities Radha-Banabihari. The event seemed to bond the Alachua community together, with both younger second generation and senior devotees gathering to honor their beloved friend and inspiration, the mood in the room like a refugee camp during a calamity.
Through the memories spoken that night, as well as interviews with those close to her, we can piece together a personal and moving picture of Yamuna’s life, her personality, and the impact she had on so many devotees.
Early Years in Oregon and San Francisco
Yamuna was born in Oregon on May 19th 1942. Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Shyamasundara Dasa, one of the six devotees who, along with Yamuna, had started ISKCON in England, spoke at the memorial via Skype, describing how he first met her there while in fifth grade. Back then, he was Sam Speerstra and she was Joan Campanella.
“She came and sat in front of me, this little girl with black ponytails, and I couldn’t resist it,” he recalled. “I just had to pull one of them. So I did, and she yelped, which the teacher chastised her for. Since then, we were very special friends. We shared a sense of humor, as well as a search for the truth.”
While on a road trip to Los Angeles, during which the two told each other stories, made up silly poems, and talked about the meaning of life, Joan and Sam concluded that they needed a teacher ‘to tell them what was what.’ Later, when they moved, they got houses next to each other so that they could continue to talk about their search every day.
Soon it bore fruit. Sam was working with the US Forest Service, living with his girlfriend Melanie Nagel—later to become Malati—in a remote lookout tower and reporting forest fires. One day, after they hadn’t seen anyone in weeks, they spotted a car winding its way up to them. Out popped a breathless ‘Joanie’ along with Michael Grant and his girlfriend Jan—Mukunda and Janaki. They began to tell Sam and Melanie about the Swami they had just met.
“I trusted Yamuna so much—she was a very intelligent, critical-thinking person—that just knowing this teacher was good enough for her convinced me,” Shyamasundara said. “And then and there, I decided to help them open a temple in San Francisco.”

And so the group of six close friends and ISKCON pioneers was born—Yamuna and her husband Gurudasa, Shyamasundara and his wife Malati, and Mukunda and his wife Janaki. Together, they opened the second temple in ISKCON, a storefront in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, in 1966.
Mukunda Goswami, who was not present at the memorial but spoke with ISKCON News recently, met Yamuna through a friend in Portland, Oregon in 1961. At the time she was learning calligraphy at Reed College from Lloyd Reynolds, who also taught Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“She was my wife’s sister, so she was family,” Mukunda Goswami told us. “I always looked up to her—in a way she was like a mother to me. I didn’t regard her as male or female, although she certainly possessed all the good qualities of a Vaishnavi. We got on well, and I don’t remember ever quarrelling with her. She was a true saint.”
Yamuna was ‘a key mover’ at ISKCON San Francisco, during the time when the famous “Mantra Rock Dance” was held, with Srila Prabhupada topping a line-up at the Avalon Ballroom that included The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Moby Grape.
“She and Guru Dasa lived in Jayananda’s former apartment, directly across from the house in which the Grateful Dead lived,” Mukunda Goswami recalled. “She was already a great cook back then, and used to cook for many devotees—her ‘Celestial Bananas,’ bananas in sour cream, was a particular favorite.”
Pioneering in the UK and the Heartfelt Devotion of “Govindam”
Mukunda Maharaja also had some sweet memories of Yamuna Devi during the “celebrated six’s” missionary excursion to England to establish Krishna consciousness in 1968.
“A few months after we arrived in England, we went, on invitation, to a costume party at a wealthy person’s estate in an area called ‘Harrow Hill, were everyone thought our costumes—devotee robes—were the best,” he said. “Yamuna was quick to seize the opportunity to preach. Soon I found myself playing the piano, accompanying her singing a bluesy Hare Krishna melody. An audience of fifty gathered, and by the end of the evening about four hundred people had chanted the Mahamantra with us.”
In June of 1969, Yamuna and Gurudas and the other four pioneers moved into Bury Place, the first ISKCON temple in the UK. Soon after, Yamuna sang the lead on the “Hare Krishna Mantra,” a single recorded at EMI studios and released that September, when it topped charts around the world.
“The record was even played at half-time during a soccer match in a large Manchester stadium,” said Mukunda Goswami. “Thousands of drunken Manchester United fans sang ‘Hare Krishna’ along with Yamuna.”
In January 1970, Yamuna sang the lead on ‘Govindam,’ recorded with George Harrison. Despite the track’s pedigree, ISKCON Los Angeles leaders exhibited their neophyte immaturity by refusing to play it for Srila Prabhupada because it featured a woman’s voice in the lead.
At 7:00am one morning, as Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana in the temple room and the curtains were about to open for the daily greeting of Sri-Sri Rukmini-Dwarkadish, he asked to hear the song. Even then, the New Dwaraka leaders resisted, telling Prabhupada he would have to wait until they could find a device to play it privately, not on the temple’s sound system where the Deities and everyone else could hear it.
But Srila Prabhupada insisted, and so they played the song as huge white clouds of incense smoke billowed off the altar into the temple room: “Govindam Adi Purusham Tam Aham Bhajami,” Yamuna sang in her clear voice with heartfelt devotion.
“The devotees anxiously awaited Srila Prabhupada’s response,” Mukunda Goswami said. “But his eyes were closed, and he wasn’t saying a word. After a few tense moments, devotees saw tears streaming down Srila Prabhupada’s cheeks. There was nothing more to say. The controversy had been put to rest.”
Shortly after, Prahupada told all the devotees present that the recording should be played every day in ISKCON temples all over the world at the time of greeting the Deities. “Govindam” continues to be an essential part of the ISKCON morning program to this day, and gained new appreciation from a worldwide audience of millions in 2009 when two Armenian figure ice-skating champions played it during their performance in the televised winter Olympics.
With Srila Prabhupada in India
Always a pioneer, Yamuna also travelled around India for two years with Srila Prabhupada during ISKCON’s formative time there. During these years, and for eight in total, she served as his personal cook, laying the foundation for her globally recognized culinary abilities.
Yamuna recalled these times herself at her memorial service, through audio clips recorded at a 1996 Alachua conference. In one memorable story, she told how, while traveling by train in India with Srila Prabhupada, she approached the train staff to ask if she could cook some rice for him in their kitchens, since they didn’t have any suitable food. When they refused, she replied, “My Guru Maharaja wants some rice—I’m going to make him some rice. If you don’t let me cook it I’ll jump off the train.”
She was completely serious—she didn’t want to go back to Srila Prabhupada empty-handed—and the train staff knew it. So although they called her, “the crazy white lady,” they gave her access to the kitchen, where she carefully washed a huge, banged-up pot and cooked a small amount of rice at the bottom of it. Despite the meager offering, when she brought it to him, Prabhupada was delighted, and his eyes became wide in that unique way of his.
Yamuna had a special and exemplary relationship with Srila Prabhupada, which inspired many devotees and continues to do so to this day. Speaking at the memorial, Kausalya Dasi related how Yamuna took her under her wing while traveling in India and gave her a firsthand glimpse of this relationship.
“She was always very loving and personal with Srila Prabhupada, and I learned a lot from her,” Kausalya said, describing a time when Yamuna went from store to store looking for new shoes for Prabhupada, and placed them next to his feet saying, “These are for your beautiful lotus feet, Prabhupada.”
In return, Srila Prabhupada took great care of Yamuna, as he did all his women disciples. While traveling in India, Kausalya and Yamuna, the only two women in the group, rode in a car while the men took rickshaws; and when there were only two rooms available at one location Srila Prabhupada made sure the women had one to themselves, while the men had to sleep in tents in the courtyard.

The Personification of Personalism
Kausalya wasn’t the only one Yamuna took under her wing—many, many devotees expressed how she had been their first, powerful introduction to Krishna consciousness, and an inspirational guide beyond that. Yogesvara Dasa, author of the spiritual Geoge Harrison biography Here Comes the Sun, explained how Yamuna had been the first devotee he had ever met, taking him under her wing when he was nineteen.
Devarshi Dasa also recalled her taking good care of him when he was a new devotee. “She was my best friend in Krishna consciousness,” he said. “She was the personification of personalism. Everyone felt so loved, cared for and acknowledged by her.”
And Devarshi’s wife Nirmala Dasi, who met Yamuna in New Vrindaban in 1985 and cared for her in her later days, said, “She was the closest connection to Prabhupada that I’ve experienced since Srila Prabhupada left.”
In the 1980s, Yamuna began to put everything she had learned about cooking for Krishna while traveling in India and serving Srila Prabhupada in one big book. At her memorial, Yogesvara recalled how every publisher she submitted it to turned it down because it was too big, but she refused to cut it, saying “If you’re going to do something for Prabhupada, don’t hold back. Do your best.”
Finally published by a division of Penguin books in 1987, the over 800-page Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking created a huge splash, even in a year that saw cookbooks released by Julia Child and other famous chefs. It was named International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year, in an announcement that had ‘devotees running down Park Avenue and chanting in ecstasy,’ according to Yogesvara. It was dubbed “The Taj Mahal of cookbooks” by the Chicago Tribune, and even Julia Child weighed in, calling it “Big and beautiful.”
Final Years
Throughout all these efforts, one person always remained at Yamuna’s side, greatly influencing and inspiring both her and the devotees that came to them: Dinatarini Dasi. The two developed a friendship back in 1975 when Yamuna’s husband Gurudasa took sannyasa in 1975, and had lived and served together for 37 years, ever since Srila Prabhupada himself commented, “This is a good combination. You should always serve together.”
Later in Yamuna Devi’s life, the two built their own straw bale ashram in the rural community of Saranagati, British Columbia, where they lived “off the grid” from 1999 to 2010, worshipping Radha-Banabihari and inspiring ISKCON’s youth.
“The youth were Yamuna’s main focus in her final years, whether it was the Saranagati school children, visiting Krishna Culture bus tour teenagers, or my daughter Vani whom she taught cooking to at six years old,” said Nirmala Dasi. “She felt that the youth were really plugged in, and wanted Krishna in a way that really connected with her.”
Perhaps one of the most powerful things Yamuna shared with the youth was her love for kirtan.
“Because she was very humble and always wanted everyone to participate, she would very rarely just lead—she always did Round Robins, going around in a circle and inviting one person after another to sing,” Nirmala said.

In honor of this practice, the host of Yamuna’s Alachua memorial, Sudharma Dasi, passed the mic around, giving everyone in the room the chance to say a couple of words. The love was palpable, the magnitude of her impact on devotees of so many different ages and backgrounds overwhelming and deeply moving. All had been powerfully touched by her cooking classes and books, her kirtans, her spiritual guidance and her connection to Srila Prabhupada.
And while emotions ran high and tears were shed during the memorial, joy and laughter emerged as it went on, and devotees celebrated Yamuna’s life and the place of eternal bliss they were sure she was destined for.
The memorial concluded with a bhajan by Kartamasa Dasa and flower petals offered to photos of Srila Prabhupada and Yamuna Devi. Finally, after sampling some hot cider and shortbread—a recipe from her cookbook, they left at around 10pm, knowing in their hearts that Yamuna would never really be gone.
“The last time Devarshi and I saw her, she knew she could pass away at any time, but her mood was one of excitement and upliftment,” said Nirmala. “She said, ‘I am ready. I know I have a bright future.’ Then she looked at us and said, “We all have a bright future.”
As Yogesvara Dasa poignantly said: “Yamuna’s story is not over, it’s only just beginning.”

New Vrindavan 2011 Memorial

By Lilasuka Dasi for ISKCON News on 6 Jan 2012

“He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die when thou art living still in sound. The Vaishnavas die to live and, living, try to spread the Holy Name around!” – Bhaktivinode Thakura

Last night the New Vrindaban community celebrated the life of a well-known and much loved godsister of the Hare Krishna movement, who passed away recently, namely Yamuna Devi. Even if you didn’t know her personally, you certainly felt as if she’d been one of your ever well-wishers after this memorial.

Following Malati Dasi’s expertly managed introduction along with the efficient help of Rasikananda Das, and despite minor technical glitches, we sang “Je Anilo” lead by the beautifully smooth voice of Karnamrita dasi over the telephone air waves.

Then we heard three wonderful talks given by Yamuna Devi. First she spoke of how every one of Srila Prabhupada’s temples is a holy dhama. Then, she emphasized that respect amongst one another is even more important than love. And finally she told “The Rice Story”, which Kausalya later in the evening confirmed. Once in India, Yamuna and Kausalya were traveling with Srila Prabhupada on a train and he suddenly asked them for some hot rice. Seems like a simple request to us, but in an overcrowded dusty, ashy, very long train speeding across India, this was no small task. After walking the full length of 12 cars, they finally found the cook, who flatly refused to let them cook anything for anyone. This conversation took place on the little rickety platform between 2 cars. So Yamuna looked down and declared, “If you don’t let me cook rice for my spiritual master, I’ll jump off this train to my death!!” Well, that worked, and Srila Prabhupada got the rice and everyone (except the kitchen staff) was happy!

Yogesvara Das also spoke via Skype to everyone gathered in the temple room here. He spoke about the adventures of publishing Yamuna’s famous cookbook, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine.” He related an amazing story of how, despite all odds and against most conventions, this amazing cookbook won the 1986 best Asian cookbook of the year. Then, to top that, in an unprecedented decision by the panel of the International Association of Cooking Professionals that same year, they awarded 1st prize to “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine” , which is the Pulitzer prize-equivalent in the cooking world.

Kausalya spoke about how Srila Prabhupada always made sure that the women were carefully protected. He often took them in his car with him when traveling in India. And when one Indian man criticized the devotees for allowing a woman to sing Sanskrit prayers, as Yamuna did, Srila Prabhupada retorted, “You will never know one ounce of the devotion of these women in your entire lifetime!”

The evening was very enlivening and, as Malati expressed, “Yamuna devi will stay ever alive in our hearts and our minds”.

Saranagati 2012 memorial

– by Yoginath das

It’s a warm day for January. Only a trace of snow on the ground. The roads are icy and slippery. Today we will drive on those icy roads when we gather to honor the passing away of Yamuna Devi. We will meet at the home of Gosh Thakura and Girija. Just over a small hill, less than a kilometer from Gosh’s house, is the Bana Bihari ashram, where Yamuna and Dina Tarine lived from 1999-2011.

As we enter Gosh’s house we hear a recording of Yamuna singing. The living room has been cleared out. Around the perimeter are couches, chairs, and cushions. In one corner is a colorful, well-lit altar. On the altar are the family deities of Guara Nitai, Radha Giridhari, a murti of Srila Prabhupada and a smiling picture of Yamuna Devi. Next to the altar is a screen for a slide show.

Yamala Arjuna leads a kirtan while the room fills up with guests. A hundred men, women, and children fill the living room and kitchen area, many standing on the wooden parquet floor. At 3:15 Kalindi begins the program. She explains that Yamuna liked to begin everything with the “om ajnana” prayers. Whether it was cooking, deity worship, cleaning the house, or bhajans, everything she did began with the mangala charana. And so in unison our voices filled the house with prayers to the previous acharyas just as we had done in Yamuna’s ashram 100’s of times in years past.

After a few slide photos of Yamuna appear on the screen, Udarakirti begins singing Ye Anilo Prema Dana. We follow along using our printed program guides. The drum and karatala are playing very softly. Udara’s voice is slow, melodic, and deliberate. The room is silent except for the song; many cannot sing in response, their voices are choking. At the end of the song there is a request for a box of tissues. Nothing can be found and eventually a jumbo sized roll of toilet tissue is passed around the room. After the devotees dry their eyes and clear their noses, Rasa Raja sings another tribute accompanied by his guitar. When Rasa Raja is finished the audience is solicited to see if anyone would like to offer a eulogy in honor of Yamuna. There is an awkward silence until one of the “milkmaids” steps forward. There are five milkmaids in all. These are the girls who were mentored by Yamuna and Dina Tarine. From age 9 up until age 15-16 they regularly associated with Yamuna. Once a month they had “sleepovers” at the Banabehari ashram. During those weekend intensives Yamuna and Dina would instruct them in the living art of bhakti yoga. Yamuna had t-shirts made for the girls, proclaiming them to be Banabehari’s milkmaids. (Banabehari is the name of Yamuna’s deities.) One after the other the milkmaids spoke about their feelings and memories of Yamuna. The audience was stunned by hearing the depth of sincere love expressed by these girls. The fathers were soaked with tears. One of the five girls, Hari Priya, is in Mayapur and so her offering was read via email.

After hearing the girls, more eulogies are solicited but none is forthcoming. The adults are speechless. How could these young girls have spoken with such simple and profound eloquence? Because no one is capable of speaking, a video of Yamuna singing the Govindam prayers at a recent London reunion is shown.

After the London film clip, Lilamrita sings Gauranga Bolite Habe, Sridam leads a kirtan, there are more slides, and then Kripanidhi leads the Gaura Arati kirtan. At this time everyone offers flowers to the picture of Yamuna. When the arati ceremony is finished, prasadam is served. All of the dishes are favorites of Yamuna’s prepared from recipes found in her cookbook. It is similar to the feasts she occasionally organized when she lived among us in Saranagati. There is sak with paneer, ginger glazed carrots, dokra with coconut chutney, Krishna surprise, srikand and more and more. The feast is spectacular, and the mood changes from somber to light-hearted, and joyful.

After prasadam Mahidhara leads another kirtan, accompanied by more pictures on the screen. Girija then leads Madhuram, a special song in glorification of the holy name, which we sang over and over again at Yamuna’s ashram just a few summers ago. While Girija sings we all take turns offering tea light candles to the picture of Yamuna. The altar becomes brilliant and alive with a hundred candles surrounding Yamuna. Again the milkmaids take stage. They sing a stylized composition of Hari Hari Biphale. Yamuna often said that this was her favorite bhajan. The girls appear to be heavenly Gandharvas. The bhajan is heartfelt, deeply emotional and without pretense.

Again the audience is crying. Bala Krishna plays a recording of Yamuna singing with Karnamrita. It is an unreleased studio composition which Yamuna spent two weeks perfecting. Kartamisa then leads the final kirtan. The kirtan begins with Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sharagrahi poem, another favorite of Yamuna’s. The poem brings to mind the gatherings we relished at the Banabehari ashram. The kirtan becomes loud. We are singing our hearts out to Yamuna Devi. When the kirtan ends there is silence; no one wants to move.

Finally Kalindi instructs us to gather in a circle for the kavacha. At the end of every program at Yamuna’s ashram, it was her custom to have a kavacha. And so we squish ourselves into a circle, holding hands and shoulders. In rapid fire we go around the circle, each person saying one word describing a quality of Yamuna. Without hesitation and without repetition a hundred qualities of Yamuna fill the inner circle of the kavacha. Then as loud as possible we chant the Hare Krishna mantra three times, raising our hands in delight. We finish with an earth-shaking “Yamuna Devi ki jai!”

And then it is over. We give each other goodnight hugs and saunter out of the house. We had been together in one room for 5 hours; it seemed like 30 minutes. Outside the moon is shining on the fields of snow. A million jewels are sparkling in all directions. We scrape the frost from our windshields and drive home.