By Palaka das
As a young man, Jayo Prabhu was a dedicated Sankirtan devotee, full of life and extraordinary amounts of enthusiastic energy for serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. For those of you who may never have personally met or seen Jayo Prabhu, he resided in a rather large body. Jayo loved kirtans, but perhaps even more, Jayo loved dancing in kirtans. Often times while watching Jayo dance, he invoked images of a powerful devotee elephant raised up on its two hind legs as he skillfully danced to the Holy Names with great pleasure.
At times, Srila Prabhupada referred to his western disciples as the dancing white elephants. Certainly Jayo knew how to dance, and he kept everyone amused and entertained with this endearing talent! We all watched in amazement as he jumped, swirled, twirled and moved with ease, especially for someone housed in such a large body. Jayo was remarkably light on his feet, which inevitably earned him the nickname, ‘Twinkle Toes’. To this day, the mere thought of Jayo’s name brings a smile to my face as I remember his various antics while dancing in kirtans. There was, however, one particular dance move that was so uniquely Jayo’s that it deserves mentioning: the JAYO SLIDE.
In 1976, Jayo was residing at the Washington DC Temple, where every day the kirtans were wonderful and were attended by so many devotees, you couldn’t help but become enlivened. Of course, Jayo Prabhu would always be one of the very first to start dancing and when he got going, he always was the most enthusiastic dancer of us all. But when he really really got going, Jayo would do his Jayo Slide.
The Jayo Slide went something like this: Sanding before Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan, Jayo would turn around and then, as fast as he could, run to the back of the temple where Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana was located. Just before reaching it however he would drop completely to his knees and fall on the hard temple room floor thus continuing the remaining distance sliding his way in, with arms completely outstretched. He always had this great big huge gigantic smile on his, by now, bright red face as he slid in to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet. Remarkably, he insistently hopped right back up on his feet, turned completely around, and now head for Their Lordships, running back to the main alter as fast as he could. Once again, Jayo would drop to his knees, hit the floor, outstretch his arms and slide perfectly in. Always stopping just in the nick of time and right in front of Radha and Krsna, like an old pro. Sometimes laughter was my reaction but I also remember smiling and having to appreciate his sincere efforts to please his Lord and Master.
The Jayo Slide really was much more than some flashy 70’s dance move. It was an act of love and devotion. Jayo was a surrendered soul, stealing all the mercy he could as he dropped to his knees, outstretched his arms and begged to be accepted and engaged in devotional service. Jayo found a unique way to make Srila Prabhupada and Krsna smile, and perhaps even laugh. Srila Prabhupada advises us not to want to see Krsna, but rather to act in such a way that Krsna wants to see us. We all smiled as Jayo entertained, but I am sure Krsna and Srila Prabhupada had the biggest smiles, for Jayo’s slide was for their pleasure, not ours. Without a doubt, Jayo was being noticed and with every slide, Jayo too was getting much closer to his eternal home. By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya, Jayo found a very easy way to perfection through this chanting and undoubtedly in Jayo’s case, dancing process. So easy is this process that even a dog can participate. So what to speak of a rare surrendered soul like Jayo Prabhu, who practically slid his way back home. His real home, his eternal home, back to Godhead.
Volumes can be written about Jayo’s kirtan escapades and antics but one thing is for certain, he was tasting that transcendental nectar for which we are all hankering. Jayo was especially blissful during kirtan and it was contagious for anyone who may have had the good fortune to be part of it. Jayo was not a miser either, and he loved to share the good fortune and blessings he was receiving with others. So naturally he wanted to distribute those good fortunes in the form of transcendental books for the greater benefit of all mankind.
Like everyone, Jayo looked forward to the Christmas marathons, as they afforded special opportunities for performing Sankirtana during this seasonal time of giving. Jayo however, had an edge over everyone else during Christmas time, because he actually looked like Santa Claus. Hare Krsna Santa’s were one such way to easily approach and engage just about everyone you met in Krsna’s service. “Ho Ho Ho Hare Krsna” and a prasadam candy cane placed in the hand generally stopped them, but watching them unwrap and then proceed to eat the prasadam as they were taking a book and giving a donation was even more the sweeter for those truly rare souls who had the good fortune to help distributed this causeless mercy.
Jayo was the ideal Santa in every aspect of this Santa conception. From both the Eastern and Western perspectives, Jayo was indeed a real Santa. With his large form, Jayo more than adequately filled his costume to full Santa Claus perfection. He had the Santa look down pat. From the jolly smiling face with cheeks rosy and red, the twinkle in his eyes, to even the big round belly that jiggled when he laughed. Practically everyone Jayo encountered as Santa felt very comfortable and happy to be in his presence, because he was so convincing as Santa. So naturally they appreciated his efforts and thus reciprocated accordingly, making Jayo perhaps the very best Hare Krsna Santa ever! As Santa, Jayo stood in front of Macy’s on Fifth Ave and distributed more Krsna trilogy’s in a single day than anyone ever had in the past, thus setting a new book distribution record. As a matter of fact, his Santa Claus persona even received national status as the JAYO SANTA from the famed Paul Harvey radio show.
Jayo Santa was how he introduced himself to everyone during the Christmas marathons and they loved not only him, but his jolly enthusiastic approach to Santa fundraising as well! Jayo was so expert and skilled as Jayo Santa that I am convinced if he could have pulled it off, he would have performed Jayo Santa sankirtana all year round. Most everyone in ISKCON knows of the Jolly Swami, but have you ever heard of the Jolly Jayo Santa?
“Who is that Jayo Santa?” was a question asked on air by one of America’s largest syndicated radio broadcasters of the day, Paul Harvey. Harvey’s career in radio spanned more than 70 years, and his shows “News & Comment” and “Rest of the Story” made him a familiar voice in Americans’ homes across the country. Paul Harvey was considered to be the “most listened to man” in broadcasting during the Jayo Santa days. Harvey was also well known for his coverage and commentary on the not so typical and a bit more unusual stories as well. Certainly a story about Jayo Santa fit his quirky criteria in broadcasting.
So the Paul Harvey Jayo Santa saga goes something like this: An elderly lady wrote in to the Paul Harvey Show inquiring as to what if anything he could please tell her about one Jayo Santa who goes from door to door collecting funds. Perhaps others too had come under the spell of this Jayo Santa character. She was looking to find out more information or perhaps other news accounts so she, too, could find out the “Rest of the Story” on this most unusual Jayo Santa. Paul Harvey must have found her Jayo Santa story interesting and just unique enough to merit an on-air segment.
Apparently one Christmas marathon, Jayo came knocking at this elderly woman’s door and introduced himself as Jayo Santa. He gave her a prasadam candy cane, which she accepted. As always, and in true Jayo Santa form, he charmed her with his perfectly mastered Jayo Santa routine. She was very impressed and convinced by everything this Jayo Santa had to say. She too made a donation to his cause, all of which she did with no regrets, except perhaps for one. She wished she had found out more about that very special Jayo Santa who came to visit her at her home that Christmassy day. So who was he and where was he from? All she could remember was that he told her he was Jayo Santa. As an avid listener and in true Paul Harvey form, she wanted to know the “Rest of the Story”. Of course, for Paul Harvey and his listening audience on that now forgotten day sometime way way back in the late 70’s, the question still remains: “Who is that Jayo Santa?” You see, not even Paul Harvey could figure out who Jayo Santa was. And as the story goes, Paul Harvey too was forced to end this segment of his radio show with the now famous: “Who is that Jayo Santa”. All the while never truly giving the “Rest of the Story”, but now you know the “rest of the story”, for Jayo Santa was no other than Jayo das, a true Vedic Santa.
So who is that Jayo anyway? All I know and can say is that he is one very fortunate great individual spirit soul who perfected the human form of life. A soul surrendered to the desire and wishes of his guru. Someone who selflessly become an instrument and allowed himself to help as an assistant to his beloved Spiritual Master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who kindly fulfilled the desire of Lord Caitanya and our entire Sampradaya by spreading this most precious gift of Krsna Consciousness all over this world. Who is that Jayo? Someone who at the most critical time of his life, death and passing from this body, was remembered by Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Who is that Jayo? Someone I remember and can look up to as my older brother.
Hare Krsna, Jayo Prabhu, and thank you for making everyone smile. Your enthusiasm, love and dedication to Srila Prabhupada’s mission have not gone unnoticed nor will they ever be forgotten.
Falling at your feet, begging forgiveness for all my offenses,