By Jatayu dasa
In the lives of all devotees events take place that are very extraordinary and wonderful. Because such occurrences cannot easily be explained logically then one might label them as being miracles. More often than not such events happen to devotees who are directly serving the deities or who are on book distribution.
Many times devotees will see or hear things on the altar that is hard to explain. Devotees distributing books have numerous stories to tell about their interaction with people on the street that are sometimes just unbelievable. For me unexplainable and wondrous things happened while I was doing Food for Life. I have served in many departments in a number of temples but Food for Life was always special for me. My first experience with Food for Life was in the mid-eighties when I lived at Gita-nagari. My duty was to deliver plates of full meals to whoever asked for it in the surrounding neighbors of the farm. At first I had only 6 deliveries but within 3 months I had 95 customers.
One of these persons was an older Negro lady by the name of Mary. Her and I became instant friends. She was very sick and so I would just sit with her for a while just being friends telling her about my life as a devotee. She told me once that there were several people in her apartment building that did not like the Hare Krsna people and so would not take the food even though they needed it. She told me she would argue with those people telling them that the devotees were good people. Because of her I found seven new customers who otherwise would not have gotten prasadam. After a short time I was asked to travel to different cities to raise money for the farm through business ventures.
When I was in one city in Indiana I was putting the book, ‘Prabhupada’, in people’s mailboxes at their house early Sunday mornings. Since I was doing business in that town I had to remain hidden as a devotee. On this one day a young boy, 11-12 years old saw me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was handing out these books to help people in their spiritual life. He looked at Prabhupada’s picture on the book and asked, ‘Are these like Bible books’? I said that in one sense they were to which he asked if he could help. He grabbed a handful and literally ran up to each house and placed them inside the mailbox. But after ten minutes he was extremely out of breath. He said that his mother told him that this happened because he had a hole in his heart which had to be fixed. I asked him to walk to the houses, not run. After 20 minutes we had given out 120 books and we parted as friends. I do not know what happened to this boy but I am sure that Krsna was quite happy with his endeavor to serve His pure devotee.
Then when I was in the Denver temple in the years 1991-1992; I was cooking and delivering prasadam to various locations in the city. This was certainly the best Food for Life project I was ever involved in. There was a converted milk truck that was meant to act as a small kitchen that would cook meals for rescue operation teams during a disaster.
There were burners, a steam table, spice rack, a small table and a supply of drinking water for anyone in need. Above the steam table there were two small windows cut into the side of the truck so that plates of prasadam could be served out. As I would drive around the city to deliver buckets of prasadam to different locations such as shelters and soup kitchens people would wave me down and ask for something to eat. It could be snowing outside but within five minutes a hungry person would be holding a five course, hot meal in his hands. One time as I sat at a red light a bus pulled up next to me, the driver opened the passenger door and asked for a ‘Higher Taste’ cookbook. I always carried about 20 small books with me so I just reached behind me, grabbed one and tossed it to him.
Then one of the funniest things happened as I was driving to a church where I delivered prasadam that housed homeless teenagers. It was a special event that involved other organizations and the press. I had prepared some basic things like pakoras and chutney and a sweet which was to be given out to the guests. Half way there I realized I had forgotten to make the offering so I immediately pulled over and made the offering to the small altar inside the truck. After the offering I decided to do some simple cleaning. When I got out of the truck an American-Negro man came walking by and after looking at me came up and shook my hand. He thanked me over and over again for making him a Christian.
Of course I had preached to many men and women on the street and I certainly did not recognize him but he was very grateful to me for changing his life for the better. This made me feel good no doubt but just at this time a white older man came walking by us from the opposite direction. The black man went up to the white man and said, this man is wonderful, he made me a Christian, he saved my life. The white man looked at the side of the truck and said a little confused, you mean Krishna. No, the black man said, he made me a Christian.
The white man looked at me and smiled as the two of them continued walking. I got back into the truck, driving to my evening engagement feeling overjoyed at what just happened. There was one area that I would visit where I would feed about 250 homeless men in about two hours. One day I saw a man who was quite well dressed. After serving out I went up to him and said that he did not look like he belonged here but why was he here. He told me that he was promised a job in Denver but when he got here there was no job; now he was homeless.
Over the next two weeks we became friends but then I didn’t see him for a while. One evening as I was taste tasting the very nice prasadam in the temples Govindas Restaurant this same man came in and shook my hand. He told me he got a job and showed me his first pay check. A couple of months later I saw a woman with her two children among these homeless men. Usually women were not so much among the homeless population and so seeing her hit me a little deep. I served her what I had, pasta with spicy tomato sauce, salad, applesauce, corn and bread.
Twenty minutes later she came walking up to the truck. When I saw her I was afraid that she or her children did not like the prasadam and that she was going to complain. So I closed the windows pretending to leave hoping she would turn around and say nothing. But when she knocked on the window I had no chose but to talk to her. She said, ‘You just fed my children, thank you very much.’ This almost made me cry. My heart became so soft so fast that all I could do is utter a soft thank you to Krsna for His kindness towards me. I did a lot of growing as a devotee during this time but I had a lot more to do. A few years later I was serving in the Philadelphia Temple where I was working for a devotee owned Food for Life shelter. There was one younger female devotee who worked there also for a short period to earn money for India. We both lived at the temple and so I would escort her to and from the temple.
On the way home one day we saw a homeless man sitting on the pavement so intoxicated he could not move. I gave the girl my prasadam and told her to give it to him. She was shy at first but then did as I requested. I watched at a distance hoping she would see Krsnas mercy first hand as I had seen so many times. She talked to him for some time and when she returned to me her faced was totally lit up. ‘He ate everything,’ she said, ‘and he liked it.’ The happiness we receive from serving Krsnas prasadam to the needy not only helps to deliver the fallen souls back to the spiritual world but it purifies our hearts as well. There is no end to the happiness found in Krsnas love and by acting on His behalf to give knowledge of Krsna to others we find ourselves surrounded by this love.
We have to do nothing more than just chant Hare Krsna, read Srila Prabhupada’s books and serve humbly as Krsnas servants. Miracles will happen all around us and the most wonderful of all miracles will happen; we ourselves will be freed from the nightmare of material desires and experience real happiness within our own hearts.