Knowing and Saying Goodbye to Sundararupa dasa
By Sudharma dasi
Sundararupa passed away on the eve of Srila Prabhupada’s landing here in America. Just as the new day after his disappearance brought the anniversary of Prabhupada’s preaching in the West, it is our hope and understanding that Sundararupa’s new day will be one of sharing Krishna consciousness for and with his Spiritual Master, Srila Prabhupada.
Sundararupa was my closest friend, companion and partner. In these 20 years of our marriage we did most everything together. He was the father of my children and the centerpiece of our life, and he will truly be missed.
In that spirit, I wanted to take a few moments to offer some thoughts and memories in memorium. Each one of our devotees is very precious, and we often discussed together how, if we could find a way to fully support and honor each devotee and well wisher, our movement would strengthen and grow. So, in that spirit, here are some of the thoughts and lessons that were most dear to Sundararupa.
Sundararupa often spoke about the importance of not just a strong leadership and management, but also of strong ministries, projects and communities. While he felt it was important to have strong, visionary leadership, he also felt that the ministries, projects and communities brought the necessary dimension to our movement, dimension that would lose color and variety if only based on what he termed ‘top down management.’ He compared this concept to cloth, the lengthwise threads representing the relationship of devotees to leadership and management, and the horizontal threads representing the ministries, communities and projects. He always emphasized that these (the horizontal threads) were the threads that held our movement together.
Another element that was important to Sundararupa was the development of book distribution. Essentially his concern was that more emphasis should be given to marketing and cultivation. Marketing was prominent in his mind because he felt that presenting and establishing Srila Prabhupada’s books through more respectable channels would not only more properly honor Srila Prabhupada, but also, as he put it, the books would sell themselves. Cultivation began with the concept of contact samkirtan, of cultivating personal relationships, mentoring & holding programs in people’s homes. Not only did this type of follow up strengthen the devotee’s own conviction in Krishna consciousness, but it also allowed for a more developed and committed community. While he understood that many devotees agreed with and understood this concept, he was burdened with his personal belief that the movement as a whole did not embrace this and therefore relied too heavily on ‘cold market’ sales.
Sundararupa had the opportunity in his life to serve in many capacities, in every ashrama, and in many different types of services. In terms of ashrama life, he believed that the strongest and most overlooked ashrama was that of vanaprastha. Similarly, he had strong conviction, and as he put it, personal realization of the importance of the grhasta ashram in preaching. Apparently, devotee couples had visible success going out together and preaching in people’s homes during the time he managed the Italian yatra (he called this form of preaching part of the ‘wave strategy.’).
In success, Sundararupa learned the value of inclusiveness and the value of every individual, first personally and then for their unique contributions. When harder times came, he became broken hearted by exclusion and always hoped that one day he could be part of a team where these values were upheld in a Krishna conscious environment. He believed in and he saw that when you work together in a loving spirit you can accomplish amazing, fantastic things.
Sundararupa learned of the personal pains of pride. After living a dynamic and opulent life travelling the globe, dining with world leaders – he was a personal friend of the Prime Minister of Italy’s family, and was picked up in a Rolls Royce as a guest of honor at the coronation of Pope John Paul II — he was reduced to living in government subsidized apartments and working as a temp making $6 per hour. While he valued all of his life’s experiences, his simple, though difficult life as a householder humbled his heart and freed him from many presumptions, airs and expectations. Understanding the importance of these lessons, he was very concerned at seeing his Godbrothers in positions of deference, both for the movement and for themselves.
While living as a sannyasi and believing wholeheartedly in the renounced order of life, out of concern for his daughter he renounced his sannyasa status and made the care of his daughter, and later the care of his family, the top priority in his life. In spite of being removed from his GBC and BBT positions at about this time, he never faultered in his Krishna consciousness, his actions, or his devotion to Srila Prabhupada. .
Finally, Sundararupa was no stranger to pain, either physical or emotional. But he always maintained his love for Krishna and for the devotees. While Sundararupa kept more or less to himself here in Alachua, devotees from this community and from all over the world have been writing and phoning constantly. Many wanted to speak with me, simply because they could not speak with Sundararupa. And so, I have listened to story after story of the care he showed these many, many devotees around the globe throughout his devotional life. May we always remember how important we are to each other.
In closing, Sundararupa often referred to a song the devotees used to sing in the early 70’s about Lord Caitanya’s moon rising. I never personally heard it, but somehow it soothed his heart and reminded him that his sole wish in life was to ‘break open the honey jar of Krishna consciousness and share it with the world. Perhaps he will now have that opportunity.
These are the real life lessons of Sundararupa, lessons that were close to his heart, and that he would likely want to share with all of you. They are his lessons. He was, of course, a conditioned soul, and himself made many mistakes along the way. Those who know him know both his strengths and faults. At the same time, this was his life’s journey, his very real relationship with Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna. So, I am sharing these intimate feelings and life lessons today in hopes that they will resonate and have meaning for others.
Thank you Sundararupa, for a lively and variegated marriage,
Sincerely, Sudharma dasi