By Nityodita dasa
In Remembrance of Nitai
As devotees, we accept that everything is under the control of The Supreme Lord, Krsna. Still, it is difficult, actually impossible to know why and how this sudden passing of Nitai and Bhakta Tim and Yadupati is His desire.¬†
We are helpless but to accept it as His will and prepare ourselves for our own death, whenever it may come.
What can I say about Nitai? Anyone who met him knew he was an extraordinary person. He was such a fireball of energy, a dynamo of overflowing ideas, enthusiasm/optimism, and complete confidence that anything is possible in Krsna’s service! His convictions were contagious.
To me, he was like my own son and disciple. He was my nephew, my partner and most of all he was my dear dear friend. He is an irreplaceable part of my heart and this week my vacant heart has been trying to fill itself up with all of our tears! I never knew I could cry sooooo much.
Krsna says the wise do not lament for the living or the dead. So I guess I remain a fool!! But our great acaryas also sing that they beat their heads against the rocks in separation from the departed devotees. So my tears are tears of the anguish of separation from a great devotee. And today our joy is in remembering him and rejoicing in his new situation!
I first met Nitai in 1983. He was born in 1980…so he was only a three year old, a very bright and energetic boy. I was on traveling book distribution from NV and was visiting my sister Carmen in Saratoga, upstate NY.
So after cooking and sharing prasadam with my relatives, I tried to get little Eli to chant Hare Krsna. I figured he would be the easiest one to preach to! You know: ‚ÄúBe a nice boy and repeat after me.‚ÄĚ Well he was stubborn and completely refused. So I told him that I was a monster (you know….boys and monsters) and that I was going to chase him thru the house and the only way he could stop me and kill me was to yell out Krsna’s name! Soon he was running around chanting Hare Krsna like anything and I was “killed” a hundred times! Haha!
Years went by and Carmen contacted me exclaiming and sharing her frustration with her now teenage son who was on the familiar path of teenage rebellion. I say familiar because Carmen had witnessed first-hand her younger brother, yours truly, during my teenage years turn the whole family upside down with my wild search for pleasure and meaning. My fights with her, my parents and other siblings left my parents thinking of sending me to military school so I wouldn‚Äôt end up in jail. Instead I left home and joined the Hare Krsna movement!
Although Carmen wasn’t a devotee and probably not sure what it was all about, she had seen how my becoming a devotee had given meaning, focus and happiness in my life. And after coming to the end of her ropes with Eli, she wondered if I could help! Sure!
I sent Nitai a book, In Search of Reality, by Raghunath Prabhu. After reading it, he ran away from home. So much for helping. Haha!
Then one day Nitai/Eli shows up at New Vrindavan unexpectedly with a friend. He was wild….his hair, his dress, his thought patterns…… I thought he must be on large doses of acid and speed simultaneously. He talked non- stop about so many things, kind of a stream of consciousness about the coming spiritual social technological Revolution and how it was all possible!
It was a nice visit and I fed him prasadam and wished him well, never thinking he’d be back. A few months later he shows up again and wants to stay for a while. He’s 17, and I’m living in the temple with strict rules about underage kids staying in the temple.¬†
So I called a nice devotee family living just up the road from the temple and they agreed to host him until he turned 18.
His career in Krsna consciousness skyrocketed from there. His love for and faith in prasadam inspired him to learn to cook huge batches of walnut burfy that he distributed freely to whomever he met. He moved to Columbus Temple and helped with the Krsna Food Pantry helping the poor. ¬†His understanding of the new technologies of the day inspired him and gave him facility to share Krsna consciousness with a broader audience using MP3 recordings of lectures and kirtans and the internet.¬†
Nitai’s inspiration, organization,¬†development and marketing of the 24 hour kirtan festival is one of his great accomplishments and I hope that this year‚Äôs festival will be dedicated to him! He worked tirelessly to develop the logo and art design for promotional products such as T shirts and CDs and DVDs in order to make 24 hour kirtan a household word!
But Nitai‚Äôs greatest asset was his networking. He humbled himself in front of senior devotees and called on them for advice or to re-engage them in their devotional talents. He facilitated gurukulis by paying them to assist with his nationwide summer prasadam distribution tours. And he befriended
hundreds of others that he met along the way………artists, singers, yogis, musicians, carpenters, welders, organizers, and vendors.¬†
No one knows how many people he touched! He certainly became dear to many advanced devotees in his short life and received tremendous blessings from Mother Yamuna, whom he loved dearly, Shyamasundar Prabhu, who was his mentor and Radhanath Swami for whom he would do anything.¬†
Despite his vast accomplishments, for years he never put himself forward for initiation. Because his authorities had difficulty comprehending his occasional
Motus Operandi, namely “it‚Äôs easier to apologize than get permission” approach, he could not get an official recommendation from them.
So I went to Radhanath Swami and explained the situation and he simply asked me directly, “Do YOU recommend him?” ¬†”YES”, I said. ¬†The very next day he was sitting in the RVC Temple room in front of Guru, Krsna, Devotees and the Sacrificial Fire and was asked the four regulative principles and if he promised to chant 16 rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra. Radhanath Swami then spoke into the microphone, “Your new name is Nitai dasa!” Hundreds of devotees cheered, HARI BOL!!!!
Then Radhanath Swami added humorously, “Nitai……OF…. Nityo!” Everyone laughed! But I also took it seriously.
In that way, I was given responsibility for Nitai and so I became his number one defender and supporter, always cheering him on and basking in the glories of his spiritual adventures! As an eternal spirit, I am sure Nitai is happily serving Krsna somewhere, somehow!¬†
Your humble servant,¬†