Candrasekhara dasa: The Mother Of ISKCON Prison Ministry Has Departed
Mother Syama-priya devi dasi, affectionately known as Mama Syama to her friends and others, has departed. She was the mother of ISKCON Prison Ministry; a vartmapradarsaka guru to hundreds of bhaktas and a siksa guru to thousands over the last twenty years. She was an obscure ISKCON angel and never wanted any recognition for her outreach work on behalf of her guru-maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, and even those closest to her who knew of her pancratic cancer didn’t know she was suffering because she would never complain. Although she was a single mom who always worked until her disease progressed she had a huge preaching load and over just the last few years guided at least five-hundred of her inmate bhakta “sons” in sadhana bhakti. Syama-priya was a baker, cook, Deity seamstress and bold Vaisnava preacher.
She was a servant to all and the cooling moonlight of her compassion shone in every courtyard. She distributed Krsna consciousness liberally and was loved by both the gentle and the ruffians. She changed hearts by her kind concern, her example and her teaching. Her contribution to the sankirtana movement was recognized by the Nama-Hata Congregational Ministry who awarded her the Saci-mata Award. She found the best in the worst and appreciated even the smallest endeavour in Krsna’s service. Sannyasis and others from around the world have sent their tributes and remembrances. Other sannyasis attended the memorial services for this humble devotee. Many inmate bhaktas are feeling the pangs of separation from their friend, mentor and mataji. One wrote this homage:
Syama-priya mataji is very dear to me having shared the nectar of Krsna-katha with me through her many letters and by sending me Srila Prabhupada’s books when I was incarcerated. In an e-mail I received from her earlier this year she seemed blissfully absorbed in Krsna consciousness, absorbed in Krsna-lila and even meditating upon what service she could perform for the prison ministry despite her conditon. Though I a worthless devotee, devoid of bhakti, I was moved to tears by her devotional mood even in such dire circumstances reminiscing about her many inspiring words through the years. I was reminded of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance described in the Prabhupada-lilamrta: “As Srimad-Bhagavatam states these great souls who cross over the ocean of birth and death by taking shelter of the boat of the lotus fet of Krsna miraculously leave the boat on this side for others to use.” Mayaji has so mercifully done just that for so many through her endeavors propagating sri Krsna sankirtana. As I gaze at my library of Krsna conscious literature, I see so many books that have come into my possession by her grace, by her devotede service to Srila Prabhupada, that I am just overcome with emothion for this kind soul whom I have never even met in person.
As I continue to look around my quarters, my eyes fall upon a postcard of Sri Sri Radha-Raman that mataji sent me years ago and I offer a prayer to this benevolent murti, that dear Syama-priya will go Home to be with her Krsna, sitting at the lotus feet of her beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada; thankful that witht the disappearance of such wonderful souls a boat awaits us all to carry us across the ocean of birth and death, Home to the spiritual sky.
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532 Murari Lane
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