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The Beautiful Life of Jayananda Thakur

A Kind Friend to All

Chapter 2

advesta sarva-bhutanam maitrah karuna eva ca nirmamo nirahankarah sama-duhkha-sukhah ksami One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me – he is very dear to Me. (Bhagavad-Gita 12.13-14)

This verse makes one think deeply of Jayananda. In fact, most of the 12th chapter of Bhagavad-Gita wonderfully reminds me of Jayananda, as he was the embodiment of all those wonderful qualities of a devotee extolled in this special, wonderful section of the Gita. “Maitrah and karuna,” meaning “friendly and kind,” are especially descriptive of Jayananda, who was indeed a “kind friend to all.” He was the best friend I ever had, and such a friend was he, like none I have ever experienced in my short, miserable life. Such a friend is like a fantasy genie out of a fairy-tale book. Those kind of people just don't appear in real life ... but Jayananda was larger than life. He was beyond all mundane material spheres, a devotee who was a great pleasure to his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and therefore he was very pleasing to Lord Sri Krishna. Thus he was pleasing to all people – a friend to all living entities. He was that way to everyone, though somehow I was thinking his treatment was special to me, in a unique way. I took his friendship very personally, with some kind of individual importance. I thought of Jayananda as “my friend.” And I was possessive of my wonderful friendship with him, although he was that way to one and all. A special friend to all.

The mango that never ends

One time I was coming back to the temple when Jayananda met me on the sidewalk and said, “Go up to my room, Bhakta Tom, and look on my small table. I got something for you, don't let anyone see.” I was very curious about what this special thing was and went up to his room – and on the table was the biggest, reddest mango I had ever seen. It was big and red all over. In those days, a mango all to oneself was a real privilege, almost like gluttony, and I wondered, “Should I? A whole big mango, by myself?” Well, since Jayananda gave this to me, then the answer was a resounding “YES!” ... as my taking of such mango was sanctioned by my good and wonderful friend, Jayananda. “I will not be selfish by honoring this mango,” I thought, and so I ate the whole thing with the most transcendentally indescribable relish. And it was the sweetest and juiciest and tastiest mango there ever was. Mostly because it was a special gift from my special friend, Jayananda. That was his special kindness to me, and I'm still tasting that red mango of love, again and again. The memory is always better than the actual experience.

Jayananda was guru and friend

Jayananda was karunika-guru. Lord Chaitanya's command was for us all to be guru, and Jayananda did that – he gave Krishna to everybody, young or old, and so he was guru. But he was not a kind of sitting-highon-big-seat type of guru. You never felt down there and him up there. Srila Prabhupada is Jagat Guru and we serve him in the mood of dasya and even shanta-rasa, that is, as an obedient servant and also in awe and reverence. Jayananda was more of a guru in sakhya-rasa or friendship, or a “kind friend to all” type of shiksha-guru. Not that I try to invent some kind of guru-rasa. I know that this is not the mood of guru as described in Bhagavad-Gita, where Srila Prabhupada instructs that Arjuna's friendship with Krishna was over when he accepted Krishna as guru. Yet Jayananda had that authoritative way of commanding respect and cooperation and obedience to his wishes, and at the same time not coming off as a big authority. He was your friend, and you just naturally loved him. I loved him so much that I was ready to do anything for him. He brought one and all to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, and he gave them good shiksha instruction at the same time and thus conquered them by his ever-present friendship and joyful mood of service. He was serving all the time, and had the knack for getting us to also serve, even against our will, as a lot of us were just lazy people. He got us to serve blissfully with him, and in that way he was karunika-guru, a kind friend to all.

The best medicine was Jayananda

One time we were all working hard on the Ratha carts in San Francisco, and it was so cold all the time that I got sick with the flu. I holed up in the brahmachari ashram alone, while everybody was gone all day, out doing service. That room was something else, if you ever experienced a brahmachari ashram, you'd know what I was talking about. It was more like our “brahmachari ashtray.” We had this big box in the center with laundry piled up, all twisted together, not even one sock matching another. All that mish-mash tangle of laundry was affectionately known as “The various and sundry articles of clothing, all merged into the impersonal brahmachari-jyoti.” Although these items appeared to be merged, still the impersonalist Mayavadis were defeated! Like the green parrot (that apparently merged) in the green tree, each garment retained its individual identity! Although each piece of clothing was merged into the “jyoti,” still each piece did not even remotely resemble another; so in this way they were all unique individuals! And where did they all come from? Nobody knew ... indeed, their origin was more baffling than the “origin of the jiva” conundrum. And they were all wellseasoned servants too, and some were very “holy” as well ... Well anyway, I was holed up in the ashram, too sick to even read much, just laying there. One day turned into two, then three, and I wasn't getting much better. Then Jayananda showed up one day and really cheered me up and gave me the spiritual push I needed to get better. He said, “You know, Bhakta Tom, I wish you'd just come on back to the cart site, because ... just because I miss your association.” That was so sweet and sincere. It was Jayananda, my friend. It wasn't like, “Come on back because we need to get this work done, it's behind schedule and we're short on manpower, so get up and pull your weight!” No, it was just because he was a kind friend to all, and especially because he was a very kind and special friend to me, like I've never had before. That was the best medicine ever. I got well, real quick.

Jayananda returns to our temple

Jayananda left to join the Radha-Damodara party, and then he came back to Berkeley around March of '76. Some devotees have described this event in comparison to Krishna meeting the inhabitants of Vrindavan at Kuruksetra. It was that ecstatic, the reunion after separation. I walked into the room and there was a crowd around Jayananda. Somehow I wormed my way in, and Jayananda and I hugged and looked each other in the eye for a long time with big smiles. I thought that I was supposed to offer my humble obeisances, but it didn't seem proper at the time since everybody had already done it. I remember Jayananda had once told me how he would get agitated sometimes when a certain devotee would always stop him and make him pay obeisances. Jayananda said it was proper, but he was always busy at the time and it seemed that at every turn the Prabhu was there to make him stop and hit the deck while he had something else to do. Later we had arotik and I remember dancing so hard behind Jayananda, jumping very high in the air, because we were all so happy to have him in kirtan and association again. The next morning Jayananda and I just instinctively got on our dirty clothes and went out to the back of the temple. We just stood there and looked at each other and wondered what we were going to do. We always seemed to do something together in work clothes, but this time we didn't know exactly what it was that we were going to do ... but eventually we did something for Krishna.

Jayananda shelters most fallen

One time Tamal Krishna Goswami was with Jayananda and us in the garage at the Valencia Street temple in San Francisco. He said something like this to Jayananda, “You are so magnanimous, just like Lord Shiva who gave shelter to ghosts and hobgoblins, and you also give shelter to the most fallen.” I think he was talking about ME! It's true, Jayananda picked up us “lowest-fallens,” us “no-count riff-raffs,” and he made us feel like we “really mattered,” as Mahaksha Prabhu said.

Jayananda came for no reason

One night Jayananda visited me at the Ratha cart site. I was all alone and suddenly he showed up, apparently for no specific reason. I asked him why he came and he said, “Just to get your association.” He was always humble like that and always gave his kind friendship. We read about the Puranjana story from the newly-published Fourth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. Jayananda commented how “Srila Prabhupada was the real poet.” It was always an intimate moment with Jayananda as we read Srila Prabhupada's books. I was so lucky to be there at the right time, at the right place, to be there in San Francisco in 1974-75, to be on the receiving end of the “kind friend to all.” The Lord's mercy is very great indeed. Lord Krishna is very merciful to such a poor soul as me, even though I'm so undeserving. His first act of mercy was sending Srila Prabhupada to save my lost soul, and then His second act of boundless mercy was to give me the association of Jayananda. And, as if that was not enough, then even a third great act of mercy was bestowed upon me, which was Jayananda's munificent appearance to me in my dream 20 years later. Our Vaishnava philosophy is that dreams containing a Vaishnava's appearance or the spiritual master's appearance or the Lord's appearance are to be taken as factual, and I did take Jayananda's visit as explicitly real. Afterwards he came in intense smaranam (remembrance) for years. The Lord's mercy is very great indeed, as I'm ample proof. Jayananda is the sweet expression of Krishna's mercy, as he always was and always will be ... “a kind friend to all.” Like the Six Goswamis, Jayananda was “dear both to the gentle and the ruffians.” He was as much at home with the Italians at the produce market as with the brahmacharis in the temple. He would make friends on street sankirtan, and they would often come up to him and say, “Hey, where have you been?” Once a devotee was approached by a staggering drunk in San Francisco. The drunk looked at his robes and asked the devotee, “Hey, where's my old friend Jayananda?” – from Remembering Jayananda by Kalakantha Dasa

Prabhupada told me that when you see a Vaishnava, you automatically think of Krishna. When I saw Jayananda, who invariably was steady in his devotion, I think of Krishna. Jayananda was one of the most unselfish people I ever met. – Guru Dasa

Many devotees, including Danavir and Chandan Acharya, had the experience of taking over Jayananda's old territory on incense-selling runs or bhoga runs. They would meet people who said such things as, “Where is Johnny Ananda?” or “That man – he's the nicest and most pure man I've ever met.” One man told Chandan Acharya, “Well, I don't know much about your philosophy, but if that Jayananda is into it, it must be all right.” – from Remembering Jayananda by Kalakantha Dasa

Chapter 3 - Ratha-yatra Pastimes