Memorial for Yamuna Devi

“He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die when thou art living still in sound. The Vaishnavas die to live and, living, try to spread the Holy Name around!” – Bhaktivinode Thakura

On the evening of January 5, New Vrindaban Community hosted a memorial celebration for Yamuna devi dasi, one of the earliest disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. During the memorial, Sri Sri Radha Vrindabanchandra temple was filled with nectar about the life of Yamuna devi dasi. Even if you did not know Yamuna personally, by the end of the evening you felt as if Yamuna had been one of your ever well-wishers all along.

The evening began with an introduction by Malati Prabhu, along with the efficient help of Rasikananda das. The congregation then sang “Je Anilo” lead by the beautifully smooth voice of Karnamrita dasi over the telephone air waves.

Then there were three wonderful talks given by Yamuna herself. First she spoke of how each and every one of Srila Prabhupada’s temples is a holy dhama. Then, she emphasized that respect amongst one another is even more important than love. And finally she told “The Rice Story”.

Once in India, Yamuna and Kausalya dasi were traveling with Srila Prabhupada on a train and he suddenly asked them for some hot rice. Seems like a simple request to us, but in an overcrowded dusty, ashy, very long train speeding across India, this was no small task. After walking the full length of 12 cars, they finally found the cook, who flatly refused to let them cook anything for anyone. This conversation took place on the little rickety platform between 2 cars. So Yamuna looked down and declared, “If you don’t let me cook rice for my spiritual master, I’ll jump off this train to my death!!” Well, that worked, and Srila Prabhupada got the rice and everyone (except the kitchen staff) was happy!

After the three talks by Yamuna, Yogesvara Prabhu spoke by Skype. He described the adventures of publishing Yamuna’s famous cookbook, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine.” Despite all odds and against most conventions, this amazing cookbook won the award for 1986 best Asian cookbook of the year. To top that, later that same year, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine” received first prize from the panel of the International Association of Cooking Professionals, which is the Pulitzer prize-equivalent in the cooking world. This was an unprecedented decision as they don’t usually award first prize to the same cookbook at both of these presentations.

After Yogesvara, Kausalya Prabhu spoke about how Srila Prabhupada always made sure that the women were carefully protected. He often took them in his car with him when traveling in India. And when one Indian man criticized the devotees for allowing a woman to sing Sanskrit prayers, as Yamuna did, Srila Prabhupada retorted, “You will never know one ounce of the devotion of these women in your entire lifetime!”

Syamasundara Prabhu also spoke via Skype about some of the association he had with Yamuna.

Following all of this nectar through the ears, everyone was very happy to experience some nectar through the tongue. Headed by Radha Prabhu, there was a feast of preparations taken from Yamuna Devi’s cookbook as a perfect end to the celebration of this glorious Vaishnavi’s life.

The evening was very enlivening and, as Malati expressed, Yamuna devi will stay ever alive in our hearts and our minds.

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Reader Comments

Yamuna Mataji is the personification of Srila Prabhupada’s love for all his followers. She always emanated true concern and care for all she met. And her devotion was always personal and humble, never ostentatious. Her meekness and purity of heart just radiated with genuine love for Srila Prabhupada and all his followers. Her legacy is imperishable. Gokulananda das.

Thanks, Gokulananda Prabhu. I think it’s a mixed feeling that on the one hand Yamuna Prabhu is gone from our association, but on the other hand, she has left us with an example of all the wonderful qualities you mentioned, and that is the real inspiration to carry on. Lilasuka dasi