Murali-Krishna Prabhu: There are so many examples of famous personalities, but their fame always outlives them, their fame never withstands. So many other examples are there of great personalities that later were found to be not such great personalities – Thomas Jefferson smoked pot! There are so many different instances throughout our history where these personalities are glorified, worshiped, but then it’s found that they are just ordinary men.
So in this case, we have some very prominent spiritual heroes in the history our movement – Haridas Thakura, Lord Chaitanya, the Six Goswamis. These are very potent spiritual heroes.
But we have someone that we can relate to very nicely and very simply, who is Jayananda. Jayananda was a very great spiritual hero in our movement. Sometimes it’s hard for me, myself, I’m not so advanced, to relate to great spiritual personalities from India 500 years ago in the time of Lord Chaitanya, or 5,000 years ago in the time of Lord Krishna. But Jayananda came from a similar background as all of us. He met Prabhupada when he was 27 years old, he had gone to college, he drove a cab, he had done so many things in the material world. And then he came to Krishna consciousness and he elevated himself to a very high platform of devotional service, and he did this and became a pure devotee and went back to Godhead. So in this way, his qualities were very, very attractive.
I remember when I met Jayananda myself in New York City, I came as a bhakta. I came to the temple, and I was to work with him on Ratha-yatra. The first thing I observed of him was he was a lot older than most of the men, he was about 38, and he was very understanding, he always had a very understanding nature. When I first met the Ratha-yatra crew, I had just joined the movement, I had a little earring in my ear right here, I thought I was pretty cool. I had this earring, it was a big gold ball. And Jayananda walked up to me and he looked at it and he goes, “What’s that, a little earring?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “It’s all right,” and he slaps me on the back, he goes, “leave it in, it’s no big deal.” So in this way, he was always very tolerant of anything that we were doing. We were given the Ratha-yatra to do. It was just myself, Jambavan, and Jayananda at the beginning.
Jayananda would accept anything given. The first day I went out with him, we went out in our car and it was a beat-up old Plymouth. The trunk never closed on it, and it was constantly slamming up and down. We could tie it down, we put weights on it, it was just one of those things. It was teeming rain and the trunk was opening and closing and it was just like a…I was kind of all bummed out right away, already, just because it was raining out. So then we got a flat tire. We get the flat tire, we open up the…the trunk’s already open, we look at the spare, it’s got a hole this big in it and it’s full of glass. Jayananda pulls it out and goes, “Wouldn’t you know it? Look at this tire.” And I go, “Yeah, look at it, what a bummer.” And he just says, “Well, let’s keep going.” He jacks up the car and we took it to a gas station. His philosophy was very positive.
At 3:00 in the morning he would be bouncing down the hallway with a towel over his shoulder about this big, and he’d be saying “Hari bol! Hari bol!” and slapping everybody on the back. He was like everybody’s big brother. And he was very enthusiastic at every point of the day. He would never let his enthusiasm wane. Especially at prasadam, that was one of his most enthusiastic times. He would always have a big plate of prasadam and he’d always be saying, “Oh, it’s just like a feast! Look at this nectar and subji, and bring on more!” I’d always sit next to him and he’d pile me up a ton too, and then we’d take a huge prasadam. Then in the car on the way down to the cart, he’d bring out more prasadam and we’d eat that. And then down at the cart, we’d have more prasadam. So he would always keep the men on a full tank of prasadam while working.
His nature was very conducive to devotional service. He would accept anything given in devotional service. Any facility that was there, he was willing to use. Just like one time Jambavan was recalling to me how Jayananda went into the shower from a gritty day, all this dirt on him, and there was no soap. And Jambavan was saying, “There’s no soap, Jayananda.” And he goes, “No soap? Oh, wow!” So he picked up this can of Comet cleanser and says, “I think this stuff will do pretty good,” and he started scrubbing himself down. He said, “Jeez, Jambavan, I think this has got some kind of special abrasive quality. One swoop and the dirt just goes right away. I should use this all the time!”
So in all these different instances, he was willing to accept whatever was given. Like at the carts, we were sleeping by the train tracks, we took a shower at the hose, and he was willing to relate to every personality. He was also willing to do any job. Just like in San Francisco, he was a much older devotee than anyone else but he was still doing the garbage run just because no one else would do it. And he was one time preparing the garbage run with Satya-deva and he was up to his knees in garbage, moving it and smelling it and he had a clothespin on his nose like this. And he called Satya-deva and he said, “Satya-deva, give me a hand with the garbage. Here’s a clothespin for your nose.” Satya-deva put it on his nose and he said it hurt too much so he couldn’t wear it, but Jayananda just left his on. And they piled all the garbage into the truck and they started going to the garbage dump and Jayananda said, “You know, Satya-deva, sometimes in devotional service you’re given jobs that are very difficult. Sometimes you think you’re an older man, you shouldn’t have to do things like this. But you know, I don’t care what my mind tells me. I’m just going to keep on serving Prabhupada. My mind comes up with all sorts of things, but I don’t care what it says, I’m just going to keep on going.” And we can see this in every instant of Jayananda’s life, he was always like that. When I lived with him at the Ratha-yatra site, he was always like that no matter what was happening.
Just like there was this one story, the culmination of the Ratha-yatra in New York. We worked for three months, and we were finally raising the dome on Lord Balarama’s cart. The dome was 60 feet high, and we were right on the wind-swept Hudson River. And right at this time, me and Jayananda were on the winch and the canopy was all the way up when this gust of wind started and the canopy started going back and forth. And all the devotees backed off the cart, they’re all down on the ground. Everybody was down there and Jayananda finally said, “I think we ought to let it down.” And I said, “Yeah, let’s let it down.” So we were just going to let it down and the whole thing just snapped right in half, it blew right off the cart, the fences were all smashed, the hoops, the mast was right in half. Me and Jayananda were these two sticks out in this canvas, it was on our heads and Jayananda was trying to get his way out of it. Finally he gets his way out and he goes, “Wouldn’t you know it? 4:00, we’ve got 12 hours before Ratha-yatra, let’s get going!” So we worked all night and we put the whole cart back together.
And there were these apartment buildings across the street, and in these apartment buildings people could see down into the area we worked in. So from these apartment buildings, these two old people, an old lady and an old man about 65, came into the lot just as we were finished. We had the dome back up and it was sunrise, and they were just standing around. So I walked over to them, I was all tired out, and said, “Hi, how are you?” And they said, “Fine. We just wanted to come over and see how you boys were this morning.” The lady started talking and said, “We’ve been watching you for three months now put up those carts, whatever they are anyways. And we’ve seen you boys in a unified spirit just come together on one project, and it’s just been great to see you guys work together like that. When we saw that dome go up, well, we just felt great last night, the final finale, that thing went up 60 feet. And when it crashed over, well, I tell you, my heart broke right in half!” And I was sitting there listening and she goes, “I just fell apart. But then when we saw you guys rally around that cart and start going at it, well, Fred got the binoculars out and I put a percolator of coffee out and we watched you all night putting it back together. We just wanted to come over and tell you how great it is to see you men work together like you are.” And then they came to Ratha-yatra and they saw us and everything, Jayananda talked to them.
Jayananda had a certain way with people that he could…the impression he left on people was always unbelievable. He would always leave an impression on people that they’d never forget him, any fruit run he did or people he met along the way or in stores or anything. Just like in San Francisco there was this one lady, she was in charge of the parks, we were talking about yesterday. Her name was Rose, and she was a big black woman, she was a big lady, and she was very inimical towards Krishna consciousness, she didn’t like devotees so much. And every year Jayananda would go see her to get the park permits, and Jayananda would always treat her with very special attention. He’d always bring her cakes and pies and cookies, and she’d try to be like really tough. So Jayananda would come to the door and she’d look at him like, “Krishna…” Jayananda, then he’d go, “I got you a pie, Rose.” Then she’d go, “Oh, Jim! Bring it in!” So Jayananda had a way of melting everyone’s heart.
And that one lady in particular, she later on, after Jayananda left his body, she was still on the Parks Committee, she always came to Ratha-yatra and had prasadam, and Charu was in charge that year. Charu was at the table, they were getting all the permits together and everything, and Rose said to Charu, “Where is Jim? Why are you here this year? Where is Jim?” And he said, “Oh, Jim, he’s gone, he died last year.” And she just busted out crying and she said, “My Jim is gone! I can’t believe it, Jim! He was like a son to me, Jim was!” She just busted out crying, she had to leave the room, and they stopped the meeting for some time. So this is the impression Jayananda left, even on devotees. So many devotees can testify how Jayananda made them and nurtured them into being a devotee. He took the little bit of good in you and blossomed, he just soaked it out of you. He never related to any of your bad qualities, he just soaked out all the good qualities and kept you packed with prasadam. That was one of the big things.
I remember in New York we gave our truck…we had this big bread van. We gave the big bread van to the prasadam distribution crew and we said, “Okay, you can take it over for the day.” And then Jayananda and I, about 5:00 in the morning, we went to reclaim the van and we saw it parked on West 55th Street. So Jayananda said, “Oh good, there’s the van, let’s go, let’s get going.” So I went over and Jayananda hops in the van and I hear him go, “Oh, wow!” I’m thinking, “What’s going on here?” When I walk in the van, Jayananda’s got his arm up to the elbow in a bucket of gulab-jamons and he pulls out three and he shoves them in his mouth, “Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!” He goes, “I can’t believe it, gulab-jamons!” And he turns around, there’s a rack of burfi right up to the ceiling, and he goes, “Burfi!” With little American flags in it that said 1976, which was the year of celebrating America’s Independence, and he said, “Wow!” and he started eating one. He goes driving down to the site and just started distributing it to the men. So we got down there and we had a big feast on the gulab-jamons and burfi, and in that way he was always giving it out.
We had the whole 4:00 offering, too. At nighttime we’d have a big feast, and Jayananda would serve it out. This one time they had a whole truck of watermelons, and Jayananda was slicing up the watermelons and distributing to the people on the street. He was going up to businessmen with a big, juicy, wet, dripping piece of watermelon, “Here ya go!” But the guy would see Jayananda coming and his hand would just go out like this, he knew what it was, he couldn’t refuse.
Jayananda, he’d go around, his P.R. uniform was a pair of pants with a big safety pin right here because he couldn’t get them together anymore. They reached to about here and then he just plugged a big safety pin in the middle here and then covered it with his shirt like this. I saw him doing it up one morning and I said, “What’s going on? You’ve got this big safety pin in there.” He had a shirt that was always grubbed up from working. Jayananda always used to say to me, he used to go up to me and go, “Is my face dirty? I just washed it, is it dirty?” And I’d go, “Well, it’s pretty dirty.” He’d go, “Okay,” and he’d just go in there and scrub it up again. He’d go, “Is it still dirty?” I’d go, “Well, Jaya, it’s pretty dirty.” And he’d go, “What can you do? Let’s get going.” Then he started going out again.
We went out one time and his pants were getting pretty deteriorated. He had a big hole in the front and a hole in the back, and they were getting pretty bad. So Adi-kesava Maharaja said, “Look, Jayananda, you’ve got to get a new pair of pants, this is it. Those things are almost indecent. I want you to get a new pair.” Jayananda said, “All right, all right, I’ll get a new pair.” So he walked upstairs and he found in a big room where all the refuse clothes were a pair of pants with the bottoms that were all fringed and shot. So he cut those off like shorts and he put those on over his other pants so they covered the holes. Then he started cruising around the temple hoping nobody would see him. And Adi-kesava said, “Jayananda! There you go again. That looks ridiculous, you can’t do that.” These two sannyasis said, “Okay, now, Murali-krishna, here’s the money. You go take Jayananda, you get him the pair of pants. Now, Jayananda, go with Murali-krishna. Get him the pants.” I said, “Okay, Jayananda, let’s go.”
So finally, Jayananda and I were in a store together. Jayananda spent about a half hour getting the cheapest, most funky pair of pants he could find, and he goes, “Okay, I think these are okay.” Then we get in line and I said, “Jayananda, there’s some flip-flops over there,” those little thongs, for about 80 cents. And he had one that was about this big on his foot, it only went about halfway up his sole, it was red, and he had another real big one with a hole in the bottom that was brown, and he wore those for months. I said, “Jayananda, why don’t we get a new pair? They’re only 80 cents.” He goes, “A new pair of thongs? Hey, I’ve got another month left in these things.” I talked him into the thongs. So he was in line, I could see him, he was intensely meditating, he was in intense anxiety. He was looking out, I was talking to him, and he wasn’t even listening. Finally he turned around to me and he goes, “I think I can do it.” And I go, “What?” And he goes, “Well, I just don’t think I can pay for the pants. I think I can do it with the thongs, but the pants, it’s too much. I’ve got them on, I think I’m going to walk out. What do you think?” And I went, “All right.” So he pays for the thongs, we walk out the door, and immediately we get caught. Jayananda goes, “Oh, no!”
We get in the room and Jayananda goes, “I did it. I did it, I admit it.” Then the cops come, there were two cops there, and he goes, “Look, officers, I’m a monk, it’s God’s money, I just couldn’t spend it on myself. I tried, I’ve had these other pants for months now. I just couldn’t do it, it’s too much. This ten dollars could buy three books, could feed twenty people, and I couldn’t spend it on myself. I just couldn’t see it.” So the cop looked at the other cop and he goes, “This guy’s a saint. What are we supposed to do with him?”
So they brought him in front of the judge. Jayananda explained the whole thing to the judge and the judge says, “The only penalty I can incur on this man is to pay for the pants that he has taken.” And the cop jumps out of his seat and he goes, “I’ll pay it! Let me pay it, Judge!” They were only a ten-dollar pair of pants. So the cop gave five and Jayananda paid five, and they squared it away finally.
It’s like when Adi-kesava came to the movement. The way he came was the Ratha-yatra crew was sitting underneath a tarp in San Francisco, and the tarp was slanted. And Jayananda was taking prasadam and all the devotees were taking prasadam, and Adi-kesava was throwing bottles on top of the tarp. They were bouncing off and [makes crashing sounds]. Jayananda went to one of the boys, he goes, “Go out and give this guy a plate of prasadam. What’s this guy doing?” So the devotee brought Adi-kesava a huge plate of prasadam and Adi-kesava had no money at the time, he was a young [inaudible], and he said he really appreciated the fact that he was getting something to eat. And when he sat down to eat it, he couldn’t believe that he was throwing bottles on their tarp and they sent food out to him instead of trying to get tough with him. So he took the prasadam and then he came back and he squashed plums or something for cooking the chutney for Ratha-yatra, Jayananda had him squish all these plums together. So Adi-kesava, one of his first meetings with the devotees was with Jayananda.
In all these different ways, Jayananda was always ready to go. He was a devotee who was like a Minuteman, a Minuteman like you hear the raiders are coming, they’re up and out and on their horses. That’s the way Jayananda was. When we slept at the carts, we had regular watches and we’d keep watch at night. Everybody had their watch and we’d carry a big metal pipe around. This was in the middle of New York City, I was always scared to death, and I had this big metal pipe. While walking around chanting my rounds, people are pulling into this abandoned train lot and I’m thinking, “Oh, boy, who’s this?”
So Jayananda, I’d always have to wake him up for his watch, it was different times. So this one night he was sleeping on about 12 pieces of plywood, and he was using a truck seat for a pillow. The thing was about this tall, it was hard as a rock, he was sleeping on it like this. His head was at about a 90-degree angle, and he was in his clothes, no blanket, it was really cold in the middle of the night. And I hated to wake him up so I just went over real quietly and said, “Hey, Jayananda.” And he leapt up, he started running around, he pointed to the plywood, he excitedly goes, “Murali, get the saw, cut them in half, put them up with the plywood, let’s get the two-inch nails, get the saw,” and he started going wild. I’m looking at him, I just chanted rounds for two hours, I’ve had about an hour’s rest, I’m going, “Boy, we’re starting early tonight. One o’clock, he’s ready to go.” I’m looking at him like this. Jayananda looks at me and then he looks at his wristwatch and he goes, “Oh, it’s one o’clock. It’s my watch, right?” And I go, “Yeah, it’s your watch.” He goes, “I was just thinking about something while I was sleeping.” So in this way, even when he was sleeping, he was just like ready to go.
And he never got disturbed. One night I woke him up at eleven o’clock, I shook him, “It’s eleven o’clock, Jayananda.” He sat right up and he went, “Eleven o’clock, bliss!” Then he went right back down, he fell sound asleep, and I was standing there thinking, “What am I supposed to do now?” So I woke him up again and I said, “Jayananda, eleven o’clock, it’s time for your watch.” And he goes, “All you had to do is tell me it was eleven o’clock, just let me know what time it was, you should have told me it was time for my watch, eleven o’clock bliss.” I just told him eleven o’clock, and it was just like anything was bliss. It was like, “Eleven o’clock, thanks a lot, Prabhu.” Anybody else would have knocked my head off.
He would always be like that, and he was always very encouraging. He always encouraged the most blundering thing you ever did. Like he left me in charge of making a winch once, and I made this winch that looked like a piece of modern art. I had just come from art school, and Jayananda would always tease me about it. So I made this winch, it was crooked and it had a whole different way of reeling itself and I was really proud of it. I said, “Here’s the winch, Jayananda. Not bad, eh?” And he goes, “It’s very artistic. Is this one of your art projects or what?” But even though I did it wrong and everything, he made me feel good about it, I felt great.
Jayananda, he’d make you feel good about everything, everything you did, and he’d always make you feel like you were doing the whole project. He’d always say to me, “Man, if it wasn’t for you, Bhakta Mark, the whole thing would fall through. You’re really pushing this whole project on.” And he’d always ask your opinion on everything, “What do you think of this?” and “What do you think of that?” And he was always really humble. That’s why he was so easy to relate to because he was always putting himself down. If you ever tried to glorify him, he’d turn the whole thing around and glorify you till you were like on the ground begging him to stop. And right when you were begging him to stop, he’d just load it on more. But he did it in such a way that you didn’t get puffed up, you just wanted to serve more. This was his quality.
If no one was working, he’d just get out there and you’d see him out there in the teeming rain. Like there was one day, nobody was working, he came down and it was teeming rain, he was just out there with the material energy getting all these things together and the ropes and I remember he had this big pipe. And everybody was watching him on the docks and everybody just went, “Let’s go!” and everybody got out there in the rain and started helping him. He had that quality of bringing out devotional service in people. People automatically wanted to help him do whatever he was doing.
So even in his last days, Jayananda would always be working and doing things, finally he was pushing on the Ratha-yatra in Los Angeles, and he had me come out there and help him. Actually, when I came in the room, he said to me, he said, “Murali, there’s a pie in the refrigerator. Pull it out, will ya?” So I pulled it out, it was a strawberry cream pie, this huge pie. I sat down with him and he goes, “Finish it off.” I’m like, “Finish it off? The whole pie? Don’t you want some?” He goes, “No, I can’t eat it. I want you to have the whole thing.” And I tried to get out of it again and he goes, “Look, don’t be bashful about prasadam, now get into it.” I said, “Okay.” So I ate the whole pie.
Jiva told me this one thing. Jiva had left the movement and was working in a meat-eating restaurant. It was a packed Friday night one night and he was cooking steak, and he had a blood-ridden apron on and he heard this, “Hey, Jiva!” And he said, “Jiva?” And he turned around and Jayananda was there and he said, “Jiva, it’s good to see ya!” Jiva went, “Huh?” Jayananda said, “I brought you some prasadam. Let’s eat it.” So they sat down, they cleared out some tables right in the middle of the restaurant, and they took a huge feast right there. So Jayananda was never seeing like “this devotee’s blooped, that devotee’s out of it” or anything.
There was one devotee…we had some trouble, we had some problem cases on the crew that year. He was an expert at organizing cynics and bloopers and agnostics and atheists, anybody who’d work with him. So that year we had one guy, he was going out and he would have a beer once in a while and come back. And Jayananda would go, “Well, you know, just get back on the carts, start working again.” He was willing to tolerate just about anything, but he would always just encourage you to do more and more devotional service.
Like when I first came, I was sitting next to Jayananda in class. Jayananda and our crew, we were working 12, 13 hours a day. And the sannyasi was up there and he was…it was a staunch year, ’76 in New York, it was like all the brahmacharis, there was about 150 of them and five sannyasis giving out the sauce every day, 15 dandas, it was like super powerful. So this sannyasi was up there and he was saying, “I don’t want any space cases in the temple!” And he was looking at everybody and I was going like this. And my roommate at that time, I had this roommate… Jayananda sent me back to the temple for something, and I opened my closet door and the roommate was in my sleeping bag eating cookies in the dark at 2:00 in the afternoon. And I was thinking, “Oh, boy, what’s going on here?”
So the sannyasi gave this whole class and I thought, “Jeez, I’m not spaced out.” He was giving the class, “Don’t be spaced out, be engaged.” And I was sitting there like this, “I’m pretty good, I’m not spaced out.” I’m looking around at all the guys like, “I’m with Jayananda,” and I thought I was pretty cool. And Jayananda was just sitting there and he was really meditating on the class. Then we got up and I was just about to say to Jayananda, “Good thing he wasn’t talking about us, eh, Jayananda?” something like that. I was just about to say something and Jayananda looked at me and he goes, “I’m the biggest space case in the temple. I can’t believe it. If I could just get it together a little bit, I could do something for Prabhupada.” And I just thought, “Man.” And I’m thinking I’m hot stuff, Jayananda’s three times as humble. And he was thinking…automatically, he thought every class was for him. He sat in class, he never thought, “This isn’t for me” or “I’m an older devotee.” He just thought everything was for him.
If a bhakta said something to Jayananda, he’d go, “You really think so? Well, maybe we ought to change it. What do you think?” I remember the crew, he would take advice from anybody…not that he was a fool. He would know exactly where to put a man, exactly where to encourage and where to chastise, but his chastisement was like a flower. Sometimes it hit you and knocked you off your feet, but it was subtle.
One time we were supposed to learn shlokas for prasadam in the morning, and in the morning we’d all learn these Bhagavad-gita shlokas or we couldn’t take prasadam. And I wasn’t such a pandit, I would have great difficulty with the shlokas, so I’d be trying to get them out. And this one day I decided to learn this really big long one to prove to everybody I could do it. And I screwed it up so bad, Jayananda looked at me and he goes, “Where did you get that verse? You better just take prasadam.” So I just took prasadam and I was thinking all day, “Oh, boy, I really blew it in Jayananda’s eyes,” I really felt bad. So later on in the day, I finally got it down and I went up to him in the middle of the day. I said, “Jayananda, I got the verse down.” And he goes, “Oh, yeah?” So I got it out to him and he goes, “That’s it, that’s the ticket.” Then he just slapped me on the back and he goes, “Okay, let’s go.”
When I got to New York, I was just a regular guy. I was used to going to the Sunday Feast and drinking all the sweet rice and having fun. So at 4:00…I had this welding helmet from art school, it had all these peacocks on it and stars and rainbows painted on it. Jayananda looked it and he goes, “Boy, that’s really something!” He said to Jambavan about two weeks after me and my brother worked with him, he goes, “These guys remind me of `Leave It To Beaver,’ that show, because these guys are too much!”
So anyway, I was working and I turned off my machine at 4:00 and I put my welding helmet on top of the machine and said, “4:00, time for the feast.” It was my first day working with him. And Jayananda and Jambavan have got some huge railroad track, it was a piece of railroad track and they were sawing it in half and beating it with sledgehammers and I was looking at them going, “Oh, boy.” So finally I said, “So Jayananda, it’s 4:00, are we leaving now?” He looks at me and he goes, “Leaving? No, we’re not leaving. Where are you going?” I go, “To the feast.” He goes, “For what?” I go, “Well, I thought I’d go. You know, prasadam and the guests and everything.” He goes, “No, no, no, no. You got it all wrong. We just work.” I go, “Work?” He goes, “Yeah, flip on your machine and keep welding.” I went like this, “Okay.” Then after a minute I lifted up my helmet and I said, “Jayananda, do you think we should call the temple and tell them to save prasadam?” He goes, “No, don’t worry about yourself all the time.” So I put my helmet back down and I was thinking the whole time as I was welding, “No prasadam, this is such bad news, this is so hard!”
Now it’s 8:00 at night. So we’re driving home and I was thinking the whole time, “When you get in the temple, there’s going to be no prasadam, I’m going to have to get up tomorrow and the whole thing’s just going to start all over.” So we got to the temple. I remember we drove up to the temple in this car, the old Plymouth. Sometimes Jayananda would get that Plymouth in a tight parking spot in New York and he’d put it in drive and he’d go, “I think we can make it.” So we drove up and all these Indian people were there and they were fully…you know, the gold and the bangles and the silk saris, and the men were astutely dressed, and we drove up. And Jayananda got this pair of pants for Jambavan, he’s a great big tall devotee, and the waist fit all right but they came down just past his knees, looked like clamdiggers or something, and they were Army fatigues, like jungle pants. Jambavan put them on the first day and said, “Jeez, Jayananda, do you think they’re all right?” Jayananda said, “They look great, don’t worry about it.” So we got out of the car and Jambavan’s got his pants down to his knees and I’ve got my colorful welding helmet on and my earring, Jayananda gets out and they just started laughing. The whole crew of Indian people just started going, “Oh, ho, ho, ho.” Jayananda went up to them, “Namaste!” and they all broke up again.
So we walked into the temple and they brought this platter of prasadam, it was just huge, and it mounded into a peak and right at the top there was a little pyramid of gulab-jamon balls. They brought it out and they put it in front of Jayananda and I went, “Wow! That’s the most prasadam I’ve ever…” And they brought out a similar plate for all three of us and they put us in a back, back, back room where nobody went and they said, “Nothing’s too good for the Ratha crew.” And I was thinking, “Man, this is great!” Jayananda patted me on the head and he goes, “See, you never gotta worry about it. Just stick with me, you’ll always have plenty of prasadam.” So I took it for granted that we would be well taken care of.
This one time…Jayananda would always be…he’d just never get into negative talking about anybody. Like if anybody said anything or did anything negative about a devotee or about ISKCON, he’d just kind of go…like a big, big problem, political thing, he’d just go, “Yeah, you know, jeez, let’s get back at it, eh? We got a lot of work to do.” He was fixed, never deterred. And there was this one devotee, I remember, he had some problems and he was always going up to Jayananda about his problems and revealing his mind, he was always having difficulty. Jayananda just kept going, “If you give to Krishna, you’ll never be the loser.” Every day he’d say that to the whole crew, he’d go, “Give to Krishna, you’ll never be the loser. You’ll be the gainer by millions of times.” And he used to say to me, “If you’re going to lead, work three times as hard. Because if you ever lead anybody or anything or any project, you make sure you work three times as hard as anybody and then people will listen to you.” So I used to see Jayananda, he’d be working about five time as hard as anybody and he’d be out there in the worst conditions. When it got really austere, when the going really got tough, that’s when Jayananda would just really start moving.
I remember the Fire Department came down and closed down our shop where we were making the wheels and stuff, and we were in complete despair, we said, “There’s no chance, we can’t do anything, there’s no getting out of it,” and me and my brother were in tears. We asked Jayananda what he thought and he goes, “The only thing I think about is watching Lord Jagannatha go down Fifth Avenue on the 19th. If you guys want to talk about that, I’ll be right with you. But otherwise, let’s just keep working.” So in this way, he was very inspiring to work with, he was a very inspirational devotee.
Whenever he was around, he was a big guy, a very big man, and he also was very positive, he emanated positive energy. No matter what kind of negative thing came to him, he’d just turn it around and send it right out positive. He’d look at the guy and just turn his head right around, do double back flips, and the guy would go away going, “Jai, Hari bol!” He’d come in like, “Jayananda, there are problems at the temple and we’ve got to do this and that,” and he’d just go, “Ah, Lord Jagannatha!” He’d just be so into devotional service, so into distributing prasadam, so into giving a Gita out to anybody.
We went into this one place, it was in the back alleys of Brooklyn, it was a special cheap machine shop that Jayananda found. It looked like it was about 1919 in there. The guy looked like he hasn’t seen the 1970’s yet. He had these old glasses that were on him like this, and he had this hair that was hanging out sideways, and about three days shave on this side, clean shave on this side, he was real old. And he looked at us coming with our shaved heads and he looked up through his glasses like this and he said, “Can I help you?” Jayananda kind of went over to him and he had a Bhagavad-gita with him, and Jayananda needed some kind of special thing that we couldn’t find anywhere and the guy had it. So Jayananda talked the guy into giving it to him for a Bhagavad-gita. And then the guy took the Gita and he was looking at it and he was looking at the pictures of Krishna and Arjuna and the disciplic succession, and the guy was just going, “My, this is fascinating!” And Jayananda was explaining things to him. When we got out of there, Jayananda was just in bliss, he was just going, “Did you see how that old guy had the Gita right in his hand and he was looking at the pictures? Oh, that was just bliss!” He was just really into preaching to anybody.
Then in the end, Jayananda, he got these lumps in his legs and his armpits, and he became really sick, and so they told me and Jambavan to have Jayananda only sit on a couch and direct, direct all the activities from the couch. And me and Jambavan looked at each other and said, “It’s going to be tough.” So we got down to the site and we got this old beat-up couch out and we said, “Jayananda, this is for you,” and he went, “Okay, thanks a lot, fellas.” He wouldn’t have any part of it.
I remember driving him to the hospital one time for one of his tests right about four days before Ratha-yatra. He said, “You know, Murali, I think I got some lumps here. I don’t know what they are, they’re giving me some trouble.” And by the end, he was literally hobbling around. He was going to do something and he’d hobble around. I remember him walking down the hallway, me and this devotee Bhaskara, and Jayananda was hobbling down the hallway because his legs weren’t working too good anymore. They just weren’t working. But if anybody said anything about it, he’d go, “Just don’t worry about it, I’ll be all right.” So Bhaskara, he called to him down the hallway, he goes, “Jayananda, your body looks like it needs a trade-in!” And Jayananda turned around and goes, “Maybe you’re right,” and he just walked out.
So then Ratha-yatra finally came, we worked that whole night to put the canopy back up. Bahudak and me were talking yesterday about this. Jayananda was pulling out the carts for the final festival day and he was just looking at the carts, he was in bliss. He was just bursting with ecstasy. You could see…when I saw Jayananda’s face after working with him all these months and just going through all these different circumstances, all these problems, you could clearly see the bliss he was feeling.
Like one day Jayananda had this tire, nobody could cut this tire, nobody. So Jayananda goes, “Nobody can cut it? Let me try.” So he got this knife and he was cutting it and cutting it, and he finally got it all the way through. On the last cut, the knife flew out and went right into his leg and blood just went all over the place and he just sat down. He grabbed the Gita and he gave a 15-minute class to the crew about the mode of passion. He said, “This is what happens when the mode of passion creeps in. See now, this blood is all over the place.” And we’re going, “Let’s go to the hospital, Jayananda, let’s go to the hospital, Jayananda.” “Just a minute. The mode of passion…” We finally got him to go to the hospital. He walked in and the doctors just went, “Take him right away! Get him in there!” They cut off his pants and they put the stitches in, and I never heard a thing about it after the stitches went in. I don’t even know how he got them out, whether he cut them out himself or what.
So in that way he…I saw him at the Ratha-yatra and the culmination of all these…it just went through my mind, the whole crew and all these guys and all the problems Jayananda had with getting the place and the wood, no money. It was like he came to New York and they said, “No money, no men, no trucks.” The truck they gave us, the gas pedal broke on it. So Jayananda hooked up…it was one of those trucks where the engine’s right next to you. They took off the cover, they put a block of wood on the carburetor, you put your heel on the carburetor, and you tied a string to your toe and the toe was hooked to the gas. You’d work the clutch and the brake with your left foot, and a big stick was here and you’d be driving with the toe.
One day I was driving it and I pulled around a turn too fast and I hit a brand new cop car, I put him right up on the curb. And I had my shaved head, I had my toe on the thing. He comes to the door and I’m unstringing the thing, I’m looking at him like “Oh, boy,” and he goes, “Son, you better show me your license.” All I had on was a pair of gym shorts. I go, “Officer, I don’t have it with me.” He was a real tough Italian New York cop, he goes, “Well, kid, I tell ya, you better have some identification.” And I go, “Well, I don’t have my wallet with me.” And he goes, “Oh, yeah. Well, let’s go look at the damages.” We get out to the car and there’s this scrape and a dent in his brand new 1976 cruiser and I just look at him and go, “Jeez, it doesn’t look that bad.” He goes, “You know something? I’ve had a lot of instances with you boys, you Krishnas,” and I went, “Uh oh, here we go.” He goes, “You know, you’re not a bad bunch. Take off, kid.” And I just went, “Oh, man, this is too much!” So I told Jayananda about this story. He just let me go. I looked at the car with the scrape and the dent and he comes to the door and I’m hooking up the thing to my toe and I’m going, “Oh, boy,” and he just goes, “Unbelievable!” And he just said “Go!” So I told Jayananda this story and he just goes, “Man, Lord Jagannatha’s protecting us on this crew, there’s no question about it.”
So we were pulling out the carts and I looked down at Jayananda and I thought I was…he’s looking up at Lord Jagannatha and he was just in ecstasy. He danced the whole way, there’s a film of it, that Ratha-yatra film, and he’s pulling and dancing. I remember my father came and he was like…my father was not so used to Krishna consciousness yet, and he met Jayananda. Jayananda knew the perfect thing to say to him. Jayananda shook his hand and he goes, “Your boys are the hardest workers I ever met.” And my father went, “Jayananda, you’re a good man,” and he shook his hand. And then Jayananda got him right next to himself in the parade. I’d never seen my father…my father was right next to Jayananda going like this, “Pull Jagannatha!” and dancing and leaping, he had garlands, he was right next to Jayananda the whole time. I was calling Jayananda about this problem on the carts. I was going, “Jayananda! Jayananda!” And he looked up at me and he was just going, “I’m in ecstasy, bliss! This is just unbelievable!” I couldn’t even get the message to him, I had to get Dhrishta-dyumna Maharaja instead, and he just pulled the carts. Then we got down to the site and we pulled the carts back, and people were coming out of the bars chanting Hare Krishna. Jayananda was just busting with ecstasy, I couldn’t even…
He was so attached to chanting, he would sit and chant his rounds. In New York, he’d sit down and everybody respected him. He’d always get these garlands, and about a second after the garland he’d call some guy over like real non-chalantly and put the garland on him and start chanting again. He’d always have the crew sit next to him and he’d just chant every round, just sit there and he would just chant all his rounds, then he’d be done and he’d go to work.
He told me this story that one time he was in India and he said he was so sick. He said he was so sick he couldn’t even crawl. He just told me this story, it was like real matter-of-factly, he goes, “I was so sick I couldn’t even crawl, but I dragged myself over to my little altar with Prabhupada on it,” he said, “And I started chanting.” And he said, “You know, Murali, it was the most amazing thing. I chanted just a few mantras and in minutes I felt great ecstasy of chanting the Holy Name.” And when he said it, it went right through me because I knew he was tasting the Holy Name. When he was chanting, when he was going through his devotional activities, he was actually understanding his relationship with Prabhupada.
On a morning walk we went on with Prabhupada, Jayananda was about 20 feet back. He would always be real low profile when Prabhupada was around, but Prabhupada would always ask for him. One time Prabhupada would not leave San Francisco airport unless Jayananda came and saw him. Prabhupada called for him three times and Jayananda finally told the devotee, “I’m too dirty to see Prabhupada, I’m too fallen. My place is here at the carts. At the festival, I’ll clean up. I’ll just keep working. It’s the older devotees, the senior devotees should get his association, let them run the movement, I’ll just stay here.” So finally, at the fourth call, Prabhupada said, “Jayananda must come and see me, he must come now.” So Jayananda finally got in Prabhupada’s darshan and he hadn’t slept in weeks. He was working tirelessly for weeks, never taking a nap, never stopping, never thinking of himself. And he got in the darshan and he just went like this, and he just passed out. Somebody went to wake him up and Prabhupada said, “Let Jayananda sleep.” So Jayananda, he just took it like that.
So in that way, he was always willing to go the extra mile. And he’d never think of himself, he’d always think of someone else first. He always put a bhakta, anybody, his crew, the devotees, anybody, he would always push them to the foreground, he’d always let them try to lead, he would always glorify them, he’d always make sure they got all the mercy, he would just always be trying to get everyone else to get the mercy. “Here, you go talk to Prabhupada! Here we go on a morning walk – get up there, Prabhu!” and he would be in the back. “Get up there and listen to what Prabhupada’s saying!”
I remember going on a walk with Jayananda, we were all packed in a van, and it was super uncomfortable, especially for him because his head was hitting the ceiling and his neck was touching the ceiling, his head was down like this, and he goes, “You know, this is bliss! This reminds me of the old days, all packed in together going to see Prabhupada. Oh, this is great!” And all the other senior devotees were going off in Lincolns and the big cars and they said, “Jayananda, let’s go.” And he goes, “No, I’m going with the men, I’ve got my crew here,” and he hopped in this beat-up old V.W. I was hoping the van was even going to make it to the walk, and he was thinking, “This is my place.” He was thinking, “This is my place.”
So when I went out to Los Angeles to see him in his last days, that’s when he was bedridden, he couldn’t get out of bed, and he said to me, “You know, I got this body.” You see, Jayananda, he didn’t think that getting the disease was a bad thing, he was thinking, “This is a benediction, this is a blessing for me. Now I know death is right at hand.” When he was in the hospital, he was distributing pakoras to everybody, and he had this one lady reading Krishna Book. And Adi-kesava walked in the room one day and she goes, “I’m reading about Krishna, but who the heck is Balarama?” So he never stopped, he never even thought about stopping. Self-pity was the furthest thing from his mind. I walked into the room, he goes, “It’s the best thing. This is the best thing for me. Now this body’s shot, get another one, keep serving Prabhupada.” He goes, “Murali, this body is useless now, it doesn’t work anymore. I can’t do anything. Actually, I feel pretty bad because I can’t even go to mangal-aratik, I’m the worst example, here I am an older devotee.” And I was just sitting there going…I mean, his understanding and his relationship with Prabhupada was just so deep and so he really understood. So in that way he was thinking that he’d just get another body and serve Prabhupada, and in L.A. he just pushed on till the last moments of his time with ISKCON and Prabhupada, and then he just went back to the spiritual world.
I remember the day he left. On the day he left, we were in the room, me and his servant were staying with him, and he was really sick. He had all the lumps and he was really gaunt and he was not looking too good, and everybody knew he was going to leave pretty soon. He just wanted to leave on Lord Nrisimha-deva’s Appearance Day, that’s when he said he wanted to go. So in the middle of the night he woke up and he was chanting really loud and I ran in and said, “Is there anything I can do for you, Jayananda?” And he just looked right at me and he goes, “Don’t worry about me, don’t worry about me.” He just laid there and listened to this endless tape of Prabhupada, that Happening album, and I just sat by his bed the whole night. And then he left right at mangal-aratik, right as the conches were going and everything. A garland was coming in from Lord Jagannatha, and he left his body.
So in this way, Prabhupada said that the best thing we can learn from this is to follow the example of the great personalities that we’ve come in contact with. So in that way, we can follow Jayananda’s example by never thinking that we are any great personality or we’ve done so many great things. Jayananda started Ratha-yatra in the Western world, that was his duty, and he did it for Prabhupada relentlessly. And he was such an older senior man, he was the first devotee on the whole West Coast, but he always kept himself very humble and very low. So by that we can learn that none of us are very great personalities, we’ve got to work with each other and become Krishna conscious together.
There’s a Disappearance Day, Prabhupada has left us with the Disappearance Day of Jayananda, and this day we should celebrate. Prabhupada said this day should be celebrated. So every year in May, the Vaishnava calendar states which day is Jayananda’s Disappearance Day. And on that day, kirtans for Jayananda should be chanted and Jayananda-katha should be spoken in glorification of him. He was the most humble, but also he is the most famous now. His picture was on the cover of the Back To Godhead magazine. So he made great, great progress in this movement and he was a great, great example that everyone can follow. Jai Jayananda!
Thanks to the site of Vishoka Prabhu, who provides this nectarean Jayananda memories on the site: