I offer my humble obeisances and deepest respect to His Divine Grace Srila Jayapataka Swami Maharaj. I am posting this with a heavy heart, but because it is my duty to share my experience with the assembled devotees for the highest good of all. It is embarrassing and uncomfortable to share this story, but it is so important that I choose to do it anyway. I sincerely pray that you will learn from my mistakes and remain strong in your devotional service to your Spiritual Master. It is the most important thing there is. I will be brief with the details and get to the point.
My name is Nanda Kumar das. I was blessed to take initiation from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad in Los Angeles in June of 1969. Soon after that, through the grace of His Holiness Vishnujana Swami, who was our spiritual guide and inspiration at the Los Angeles temple, I learned that if you sincerely pray to Lord Nityananda for something that is good for your devotional service, He will give it to you even if you are not qualified. He said…”If it is good for you, He will give it to you.”
I had read the book Autobiography of a Yogi before meeting the devotees and Srila Prabhupad, and instantly developed a love for India, yoga, the Vedic culture and the concept of having a Guru. When I met the devotees, it took several months for me to give up the material attachments I had and move into the temple. It was soon afterwards that Vishnujana Swami told us about the benevolence of Lord Nityananda. At the same time, we heard that Srila Prabhupad was coming to LA from New York, and also heard that He didn’t have a personal servant and someone from the temple would be chosen for that most wonderful service.
I was new and unqualified in so many ways, but I prayed to Lord Nityananda to be Srila Prabhupad’s servant… and then I forgot about it, thinking there was no chance they would choose me. They chose Upendra Prabhu instead, and soon after that Srila Prabhupad arrived. I remember when we went to the airport to greet Him, there was a large picture of His lotus face mounted on a long pole that someone carried like a banner. I remember as His plane landed, before actually seeing Him for the first time, I had a powerful experience, a blessing, where I felt timeless and knew I had waited for millions of years to meet His Divine Grace.
Soon after that, my good friend and godbrother Mohanananda das said… “I have a secret to tell you!” When I asked him what it was, he said he couldn’t tell me, but I said he had gone too far and now he had to. We laughed and he made me promise that I wouldn’t let anyone know what he was going to tell me. I agreed, and he said he had just overheard Tamal Krishna Maharaj and Gargamuni Prabhu talking in the office about Upendra going to Australia to open a temple, and how they were considering me to replace him. I was ecstatic, and kept my promise over the next two weeks until Gargamuni called me into his office and said… “I have a new service for you… would you be willing to do a new service?” I immediately said yes and he said they wanted me to take over for Upendra as Srila Prabhupad’s personal servant.
It was the most wonderful time of my life, as you can imagine. One day, His Divine Grace received a small package in the mail from Acyutananda Prabhu in India, who was His only disciple in India at the time. It contained Srila Prabhupad’s ayurvedic medicine and a letter from Acyutananda. I took the package and the rest of His mail in and ten minutes later, Srila Prabhupad rang His bell. I went into His room and paid my obeisances. When I got up, Srila Prabhupad said… “So, would you like to go to India?” I enthusiastically said… “Yes, Srila Prabhupad, I would love to go to India!” His Divine Grace said… “Acyutananda needs some help, so I am going to send you and Jayapataka Brahmacari from Canada.”… then He said with a sweet smile and a laugh… “You three will be Brahma, Vishnu and Siva!”
For a number of reasons, I did not go immediately, while Srila Jayapataka Maharaj did. I got to go later on with the first group of devotees to go to India, and got to continue serving Srila Prabhupad as He traveled all over India. We stayed as guests in people’s homes, since we didn’t have any established centers there yet. Even with the great blessing of being so close to His Divine Grace, i allowed maya to have the upper hand on more than one occasion, rather than keeping the promises I had made to Srila Prabhupad, the Deities, and the sacred Fire at my initiation ceremony. He even kept me on as His servant after I had difficulties, out of His supreme kindness. While traveling with Him in New Vrindavan, He decided to leave me there and take Srutakirti Prabhu as His servant, since it had become too widely known that I had broken my initiation vows. He was very kind and said… “If you were to travel with me any more it would be scandalous, so I’d like you to stay here and help Kirtanananda Swami develop the New Vrindavan project.”
The purpose of this story is not to talk about myself, rather it is firstly to honor His Holiness Srila Jayapataka Maharaj for the wonderful service he has done for Srila Prabhupad over so many years, and through the most difficult of circumstances. Seeing a video just now of Srila Jayapataka Maharaj chanting and inspiring a large gathering of devotees in Russia is what moved me to write this. Another reason for writing this is to inspire and implore devotees to take their vows seriously, always completing at least 16 rounds daily, always following the four regulative principles, and always remaining as the humble, obeident servant of your Spiritual Master and Srila Prabhupad. At this late portion of my life, I look back and remember what elders have always said to the younger generation… at this time in your life, you will look back and think… “I wish I would have done things differently.”
We are divinely blessed to be connected to Srila Prabhupad, His empowered disciples and servants like Srila Jayapataka Maharaj, Srila Radhanath Maharaj, Vaisesika Prabhu and so many others, along with His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila Gaura Kisora das Babaji, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and our entire disciplic succession… Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, and ultimately Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. What an amazing opportunity we have. Please, dear Prabhus, please follow in the footsteps of the great Vaishnavas in our lineage like His Divine Grace Srila Jayapataka Maharaj, and don’t make the mistakes I’ve made of thinking you can survive without Sri Guru’s mercy that comes through obedience.
I pray that someone who reads this can see what I see. I had the same blessing and same instruction as Srila Jayapataka Maharaj. He remained sincere in his service and his vows, and has done such wonderful things and brought so many devotees to Krishna.
The only thing I can offer is to beg you from the bottom of my heart to follow the sacred promises you made to your Guru and Krishna when you took initiation, so you can avoid the sadness and lamentation that comes after thinking we are independent of Them and that we can survive without Their blessing.
All glories to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupad.
All glories to His Divine Grace Srila Jayapataka Maharaj.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Sri Ugrasimha.
May He protect all of us from the illusions of maya.