Memories About Janakanath Prabhu

submitted by Jiva Gosvami das (Jesse)

In the late ‘70s, one Bhakta Jesse, having just read “The Bhagavada Gita As It Is,” by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, approached the Hare Krsna Temple in Columbus Ohio, with the intention of becoming just like The Devotees.

One of the first Devotees Jesse saw was Jaknakanatha Prabhu.

Janak was up on a high ladder, carefully carrying out a task Bhakta Jesse could not comprehend. There was paint, and Janakakanatha was wielding a brush, Jesse could see that, but surely, he could not be actually painting the Temple! To the best of Jesse’s New York knowledge (such as it was) … painting a building is a project carried out by a virtual team of workers.

This team of workers would spend days erecting scaffolds, unrolling massive tents of drop cloth, shouting, joking and clattering with the gusto of transposed garbage collectors. For such a team to paint a building the size of the Columbus Temple would take several trade union enhanced weeks of absolute disturbance, discomfort and displacement for residents and neighbors.

Painting a building, from all that Jesse had experienced to that point, was not something done by one diligent young man on a ladder. Quietly singing, with bucket and brush … one calm and graceful person … it just wasn’t done that way.

Later, on the porch, Jesse made bold to ask the eminently approachable Janak if he’d ever painted before. Janak seemed surprised and pleased with the question. “Painted before?” He responded. “No.”

To Bhakta Jesse this too was mighty strange. Not only was there no crew coming tomorrow, here was a free and open declaration of a total lack of previous painting experience.

“Well, how will you do this then? Paint this whole building?”

A lot of us might have answered Bhakta Jesse by saying, “With this paint, this ladder, and this brush.” But Janak understood the question better than the person who was asking. His response was even more disarming: “I got books from the library.”

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