By Mahadevi dasi
Memoirs of “our Dadu” from Vrndavana ISKCON
In 1986, when my daughters Goura and Caitanya were 3 and 7yrs old, they used to play with Dadu under the huge tamal tree near the Krsna Balarama devotee prasad hall in Vrndavana. That was 23 years ago! He must have been about 65 yrs old then. I can see Dadu laughing as clearly as if it were yesterday, with a small mala around his bald head, holding hands with the girls, dancing around like a little boy. Dadu didn’t change… and maintained a very playful spirit inside an old body, throughout the decades of his services.
Through the years, many of Prabhupada’s youth have grown up around Dadu, those living in the Krsna Balarama community and those visiting. We were all like youth in Dadu’s company. Dadu never had a bad word to say about anyone, hence he was loved by all. His behaviour was consistently affectionate, yet focused on his services. If one wanted to have a playful, joking relationship with him, he was always ready to be funny.
It could very well be that our Dadu, in his brand new youthful form, is doing that now…serving/playing with Krsna and Balarama and Their devotees, which was Dadu’s constant meditation.
I used to buy these tiny notepads for Dadu that would perfectly fit in his kurta chest pocket. He liked to put notes in there. One time, I wrote my favorite Gita verse..(6.30…For one who sees Me everywhere…)on the first page of a new tiny notepad. He just thought that was so nice …to read this verse every time he opened his notepad. Something so simple made him feel enlivened!
Whenever we would pass each other, he would give me an update of what percentage of paper was left…like 80% or 30%, so I would know when I needed to purchase the next tiny notepad. We would then pause for a few minutes to have a joke session. Dadu would always inspire me not to lose my sense of humor in any given circumstance, as we would reflect together, “its all just a temporary show anyway” and then laugh.
Sometimes I would hug him very briefly before I left his presence; it would just come so spontaneously:), as in family. He would laugh when I did this. I would feel happy that he was happy; then it was our custom to say something about how grateful we felt… to be a part of Prabhupada’s Mission and his Krsna Balaram devotee community. Dadu’s face was so sincere just at the mention of Prabhupada’s Name.
Dadu knew everyone in our community, as he was our fearless mailman for over 20 years! He even knew our legal names. Barefoot, trudging along, he was so conscientous that each person got their mail, and would go to great lengths to find out whose name was on the envelope. Dadu worked with the Bhisma dept., in cooperation with Daivisakti dd. She watched him grow into a great sadhu since his beginning years with ISKCON. (Just for the record, Dsdd has been in Vrndavana ISKCON thru all 24 TPs and still serving, with a smile:)
Dadu amazed the entire world of devotees in his example of steadiness with the mail service, especially in the freezing cold and hot hot summers of Vrndavana. I was always inspired to just see Dadu, even from a distance.
When Vibhu Caitanya left his body, I was the only mataji present at his cremation by the Yamuna. He also was such a rare sadhu, serving steadily in Prabhupada’s Vrndavana ISKCON for decades! Standing some distance away from the male assembly of devotees, I remember thinking of our wonderful ISKCON family and how Prabhupada has given us such a wonderful life…. and death Process.
As 108 black and white feathered birds alighted on Yamuna, offering pranams to Vibhu C Prabhu, I suddenly thought of Dadu and several other devotees, including myself, who would also one day be in the fire by Yamuna!
Later that day, I saw Dadu in Prabhupada’s Samadhi, after sundar arati, where he was usually putting a small maha garland around his head and arranging flowers in various designs on the marble for Prabhupada to see. He could tell I was in a pensive mood, not saying anything to him. He seemed to guess what was on my mind, because he turned to me and with a big smile said, “Leaving the body in Vrndavana is so very wonderful, you’ll see!”
Then, because it was cold, especially on the marble floor, I told him I was putting some manasa socks on his feet, my usual line to him. Dadu then said to me, “Thank you, but I’m just taking them off presently.”
He had a way of speaking “proper” English, which was further endearing. We chuckled together in front of Prabhupada, who I felt was chuckling too… to see his elderly Dadu with this mala on his head, so meticulously arranging these flowers for his pleasure, after a full day of service, beginning with mangal arati. Even when Dadu was not so well, he would stumble to mangal arati.
When death takes the body of a devotee, we are somewhat sad, due to losing such precious association. This is happening more and more within our devotee family. This natural process gives the devotees on-going opportunities to serve those devotees who are struggling, ill or leaving this world.
I remember when Dadu almost left before. There was such loving round the clock care given to him by so many wonderful devotees in Vrndavana. I was coming in the evenings a few times, and he would let me massage his old, bony chest, but then I needed to go home. He wouldn’t let me go and made me put my hands over his heart. I would have to wait til he fell asleep and then very slowly slip away. One time, he caught me trying to leave and he said very sternly, “You have to stay here, so don’t try to go!” I said OK, then when he fell asleep, I slipped away.
Tears fill my eyes just now out of simple love for him. Not sad tears, but tears of gratitude that we got to serve such a great soul. I’m sure many devotees can relate to these feelings we have for Dadu. May we always be mindful of the sacredness of devotees; we just never know who anyone is. May we always get to serve devotees, no matter their age, color, position, or external profile!
When I recently broke my shoulder, Dadu was very concerned about me. I let him sign my plaster and he wrote…KRISHNA BALA. I told him I’m doing all the right stuff to heal. He said “Like what?” and I said like “riding camels and climbing trees!” He laughed and said..”Ohhhhhh, very very good!” We had that kind of fun relationship. Dadu was surely loved by all. The blessings of the devotees was a given at his departure. If we can be so fortunate!
I actually felt some joy this morning when I heard our Dadu had left this world, as now he can eternally serve his Lords in a youthful body. We did a puspanjali at the bank of Ganga for our Dadu. His determination to serve Prabhupada’s Mission has become a legend and legacy in itself. May we follow in his slow and steady footprints to please Prabhupada, our Lords and all the Vaisnavas. Dadu Maharaj ki jai! Srila Prabhupada ki jai! Vaisnava vrnda ki jai!
Begging for the blessings of the devotees, Mahadevi dasi