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 diety 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 Wallha 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.
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.
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.
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.