Punk rocker becomes devotee
By Sukhada Das
( submitted by Pandava Vijaya das )
About 12 years ago my friend Brian and I were staying up late, smoking pot, and flipping though channels. As we scrolled though various channels we caught sight of what looked to be a punk rock concert. Kids stage diving, and bald headed singer on stage singing lyrics I never heard before. We thought we stumbled across something pretty awesome, so we left it on this channel. As we passed the doobie back and forth the scene quickly changed.
Now we were watching George Harrison sing “some song” we have never heard before. Still accepting this as “cool” for a show on public access in the middle of the night the channel stayed on. Shortly after Mr. Harrison’s feature was over we were all of a sudden bombarded with a bunch of shaved heads, cartels, and people in orange “outfits”. IT WAS THE HARE KRISHNA’S! We were watching, “DANGEROUS TV”. Laughter rang out in the smoke filled living room as we watched with a “what the heck it this” kind of attitude. Devotees were on and off the screen, it made NO sense to us at all, but we stayed fixed to the TV so we could further investigate what exactly was going on…
We could not make much sense of the show. The one similarity we found in all the featured people on the show had “these bags” around their neck. In our mentally altered state we decided to play a game…”whats in the bag”. After many attempts of trying to figure out just WHAT those dang Hare Krishna’s had in the bags’ around their neck we decided…. “Dude, that’s where they keep their bubbles”
About a year later I gave up smoking pot. I was a vegetarian since about the age of 14. So I was now considering myself straight edge. Straight edge was and is a movement of people that choose to be drug, alochol, and tobacco free, some even refrain from meat. I was listening to a new kind of music, and was gaining a new set of friends. In Houston, there was this all day straight-edge festival, it was an all day event. Something like 20-something bands.
I WAS READY! So I got to the venue, walked around with X’s on my hands ready to hear some loud music that proudly spouted my new found views. As I made my way into the court yard I saw two men… Shaved heads, orange robes…. IT WAS THE BUBBLE PEOPLE! I was strangely attracted to them, and I headed over wondering WHAT they could be doing there… The conversation was warm, and I got my my first taste of prasadam. Later in the day, I found myself back at the table asking if I can have more of their food. Then again, I came BACK to the table and asked can I have MORE of that food… The 3rd time around the conversation lasted a little bit longer. They gave me a card, and said, “if you like this food you should come to our temple, we have a free feast, all vegetarian”.
Sure enough, one week later I drove to a side of town that I did not even knew existed, I made a left turn down the road where the temple was. It was early in the day, around 5pm, not many people were on the temple grounds. I walked around looking like a deer in headlights, even contemplating getting back in the car and heading home. Then, coming from around the corner I saw this man that reminded me of “the fonz” from Happy Days the television show. He came up to me with a big smile and introduced himself. “Hello, I’m Pandava” he said. What a cool name, I thought. I told him how I met these two guys last week, and am here for the free food. He explained what time the food service was, and if I wouldn’t mind staying around a listening to a lecture first. Sure enough I agreed. I sat though the lecture, tried to hang on to as much information as possible, then Pandava led me to the “place to get the food”. I tasted a whole new array of flavors, but I LOVED IT!
After I ate, Pandava excused himself, and said he’d be right back. When he returned he came back with an orange bag, the one that holds the bubbles, a set of beads wrapped around his fore arm, and a smaller set of beads for counting. He explained the importance of the beads, and we chant on them, and he requested that I give chanting a try. He gave me a card with the Mahamantra on it, and again, encouraged I give it a try. We parted ways that evening, and as strange as it all was, I knew I’d be back.
That week I pulled my beads out of the bag (not bubbles) and put the card in front of me and tried to recite what was on the card. It was a poor effort, but an effort none the less. Next week, I went BACK to the temple with the bead bag around my neck (again, no bubbles) looking for Pandava… I found Pandava, and he took me around and introduced me to several other devotee’s on the temple grounds. One of which was Krisha Kripa Das, Pandava said, Krishna Kripa is someone that may be able to answer some of your questions. Krishna Kripa was something else.
He had a radiating personality, yet still maintained a saintly presence. That day I must of thrown 100 or so questions as Krishna Kripa, and sure enough he had answers for all of the ignorance that was spewing from my mouth. This particular Sunday it was Krishna Kripa that was giving the “talk” in the temple. Again, I stayed around and listened, and made my way to the “place to get the food” with both Krishna Kripa and Pandava. After we were done eating we talked about my attempts to chant, and both encouraged me to keep trying, and God will assist me. “If you take one step toward God, he will talk 3-steps towards you”. When it was time to say goodbye, Krishna Kripa gave me this really cool “flower necklace” that he wore while giving the lecture earlier that evening.
For about a year or so I palled around with Pandava and Krishna Kripa. Learning more and more about the philosophy, and getting my chanting down. One temple visit, still being a “newbie” I met this other devotee. He was young, and I told him how I am still trying to get my chanting down. He said, well make sure you say “this” before every round. He wrote down, “Jaya Sri Krishna Chaitanya….”
After hanging with the devotee’s for about a year and a half I got a big break in the music industry. I hung my bead bag on a wall with a thumbtack and gave up my drug free lifestyle. I remained a vegetarian, but I smoked, snorted, and swallowed everything I could get my hands on for about 6-7 years while living the “rock and roll” lifestyle. In the midst of it all I knew I needed to give it up. In those years of being on stage, heavily drugged, and diving deeper and deeper into the material world, I felt a HUGE emptiness in my life. So I announced my retirement. I played my last show, and that was that… I knew what I needed to do…
I went to a local tattoo shop and asked for the Mahamanta to be tattooed on my forearm. I got on the phone, and found the number for the local Hare Krishna temple. I asked if I could get in contact with Pandava. The person on the other end of the phone, said Pandava lives in Dallas now. I asked for the phone number of Krishna Kripa. They gave it to me. I mustered up some confidence, swallowed my pride, and called Krishna Kripa Das. “Hi, I’m sure you don’t remember me…….” I told him the long story of what had happened – he seemed to remember me, and welcomed me back to the temple. Before going back I went to my mom’s house where I lived when I first visited the temple. I was looking for my bead bag. My mom said, “I knew it was important, so I never moved it…” Sure enough, my bead bag hung on the same thumb tack in the closet, exactly where I left it. I put it around my neck, and headed to temple. When I made that left turn to the temple grounds parking lot I felt like I was returning home, and in many ways I was. That was 4 years ago….
Since my 4 year return I have taken to the scriptures, chant my 16 rounds, most of which I start at 4am, and have been lucky enough to find a Spiritual Master, His Grace Sankarshan Prabhu in Austin, TX. The story of finding my Guru is another long, yet beautiful story, but I can save that for another time… I have a regular service at the temple, and worked towards getting cleared by our temple president for initiation.
12 days ago, on Sunday March 9, 2008 the temple room was filled with my friends, a whole slew of devotee’s, and well over 100 people… On that day, my Spiritual Master chanted on a new set of beads, and initiated me into the Sampradaya, giving me the name Sukhada Das.
To this day I still have the first bead bag that Pandava purchased for me when I first visited the temple, I keep it safe in a drawer. The only reason I do not continue to use it is because my I was lucky enough to receive my Spiritual Master’s bead bag. The beads I used up until my initiation were the beads that Pandava purchased for me when I first visited the temple. I have had to retire the beads, but they hang in my office as a constant reminder of Pandava’s causeless mercy. I still however, use the counter purchased for me by Pandava 12 years ago… I also keep in my bead bag the sheet of paper that I later found was written by Indranuja Das with the, “Jaya Sri Krishna Chaitanya….” mantra on it, as well as the first letter I received from my Spiritual Master.
Now I hope and pray that I can live up to these standards shown to me by all these perfect devotee’s, their Spiritual Master, and Srila Prabhupada.
Your servant, Sukhada Das.
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