Memorial to be Built for Jayananda Prabhu in Mayapur
By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 9 Apr 2011
ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission has accepted a proposal from Vishoka Dasa of New Vrindaban, West Virginia, and Krishna-Mangala Dasa of Russia that they establish a memorial for Jayananda Prabhu—considered a modern-day saint by members of ISKCON—although he passed away as far back as 1977.
“The GBC Body hereby thanks Vishoka Das and Krishna Mangala Das for their kind endeavors in this regard and offers its blessing for the successful completion of the project,” stated Resolution 303 in the official GBC minutes of this year’s meetings in Mayapur, India.
Jayananda’s Memorial, or Samadhi, will be located at the ISKCON Jagannath temple in Rajapur, near Mayapur. “As Jayananda prabhu’s service to Lord Jagannatha is universally recognized, the GBC felt that it would both be an extra honor and most appropriate for his Samadhi memorial to be located at the Jagannatha Mandir,” read the GBC report.
Jayananda’s Samadhi will be around seven feet tall, and constructed from marble. Early renderings of the design, by a professional devotee designer, show it to be a smaller version of the samadhis of Vaishnava Acharyas such as Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis, with a curved roof and latticed windows.
The Mayapur Samadhi Committee will work with Vishoka and Krishna-Mangala on the project, which funds are still being raised for.
“Jayananda is a great inspiration to ISKCON—devotees still read books about him and log onto websites about him, to get an example of how to be better devotees and servants of Srila Prabhupada,” says Vishoka Dasa, whose book, The Beautiful Life of Jayananda Thakur: Remembering an American Saint was published in 2001.
Jayananda joined ISKCON in 1967 in San Francisco, where he was working as a taxi driver. He helped found a temple there, and later was a great driving force in putting on the first Ratha Yatra Festivals in the early 1970s.
“He was known as Mr. Rathayatra,” says Vishoka. “He first made Ratha-yatra successful in San Francisco, and then later in Los Angeles, then New York. There are many devotees who are still inspired to carry on Ratha-yatra because of the stories and influence of Jayananda Prabhu.”
Jayananda was known for his humility, his dedication to Krishna consciousness, and for being loved by everyone. There are many stories about him which illustrate what an impression he made on others and how much he inspired them.
When one young man came to visit the San Francisco temple and asked if he could help, the temple president sent him to the trash area where Jayananda was preparing the weekly trash run. Jayananda told the young man, “I’m the garbage man around here. For years I’ve been watching garbage men carry out trash, and now Krishna is giving me a chance to do this for Him.” The young man helped Jayananda load the trash, and then accompanied him to the garbage dump.
All the while he was thinking, “If the garbage men at this temple can be so blissful, just imagine what the rest of the devotees are like!” He soon joined ISKCON and became a devotee himself.
On many occasions, members of the public would express their love for Jayananda—who had met them on the streets or while purchasing groceries or other items for the temple. One said, “That man—he’s the nicest and most pure man I’ve ever met.” Another told Chandan Acharya Dasa, “Well, I don’t know much about your philosophy, but if that Jayananda is into it, it must be all right.”
On another occasion, Murli-Krishna Dasa ran a temple vehicle into a police car, damaging the fender. The policeman came to his window, and said, “Oh, you know Johnny-ananda?” Murli said “Yes.” The policeman replied, “That’s okay then, you can go on.”
“I went to a store for some parts, for Ratha-yatra one year after Jayananda passed away, and they asked about him,” recalls Bharat Dasa. “I had to tell them the unfortunate event, that he had left our vision. I saw tears in their eyes, out of love for him, and they gave the parts free to me, in memory of him. Devotees, and people of all walks of life loved him dearly.”
Jayananda’s guru and ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada also held Jayananda in great esteem and had a special place in his heart for him. Once in 1976, while speaking about Krishna to a crowded room at the New York temple, he spotted Jayananda entering and sitting down at the back, behind all the devotees.
“Come up closer, to the front,” Prabhupada told him, speaking loudly. Jayananda scooted forward a few feet. Again, Prabhupada said, “Jayananda, please come up to the front.” Always reluctant to accept praise or honor, Jayananda again moved up only a few feet. Prabhupada, however, insisted a third time that he come to the front, and all the devotees cleared a path for him, while the sannyasis at the front moved out of the way to give him a nice seat. Finally, he accepted their honor, although he always preferred to remain the servant of all the servants.
Although Jayananda was not officially a sannyasi—one in the renounced order—Srila Prabhupada addressed him as if he was, calling him “Jayananda Maharaja.”
Devotees understood why when Srila Prabhupada later explained that sanyasa means “complete surrender to Lord Krishna.”
Ten days after Jayananda had passed away at age thirty-seven on May 1st, 1977, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Ramesvara:
“Jayananda’s death is glorious… He has left his body very wonderfully, and he has been transferred to Vaikuntha… Everyone should follow the example of
Jayananda. I am very proud that I had such a nice disciple. If possible Jayananda’s picture should be hung in the ratha of Lord Jagannatha, and in all of our temples a day may be set aside for holding a festival in his honor, just as we do on the disappearance day of the other great Vaishnavas.”
No other devotee was bestowed this unique honor by Srila Prabhupada, and therefore Jayananda is held in high regard in ISKCON.
So when Vishoka and Krishna-Mangala—who translated Vishoka’s book into Russian and established the Russian language website jayananda.ru—first began proposing the idea to perpetuate his glory by building a Samadhi, it was welcomed by all devotees, including senior leaders.
Traveling to India, Krishna Mangala discussed the project with Mahanidhi Swami, author of the book “Gaudiya Vaishnava Samadhis in Vrindavana.” The Swami found the idea a very suitable one for glorifying one of the great Vaishnavas in ISKCON history. He also suggested that the designers inscribe a quotation from Srila Prabhupada’s May 1977 letter about Jayananda on the Samadhi—a suggestion that will be used.
In September 2008, when Vishoka and Krishna-Mangala asked Jayapataka Swami to support the Samadhi project, the GBC member was enthusiastic, saying Jayananda was his “vartma-pradarsaka guru,” one who first showed him the spiritual path.
“From my side, I am really happy to help them in any way to glorify Jayananda Prabhu in the Holy Dhama,” he wrote, supporting the project. “It is a good idea that actually was to be proposed earlier.”
Still, Vishoka and Krishna-Mangala feel that respect and recognition for Jayananda Prabhu is fading throughout ISKCON in general, and they hope that the Samadhi will introduce him to a whole new generation of devotees.
“From year to year, the disciples of Srila Prabhupada who knew and understood the position of Jayananda Prabhu are disappearing,” says Krishna-Mangala.
“New generation of devotees don’t know much about Jayananda Prabhu and not many of them are following Prabhupada’s instructions that his disappearance be honored and that ‘everyone should follow his example.’”
He adds: “In our movement we have so many different understandings, opinions, even deviations. But by following the example of Jayananda Prabhu, we can avoid deviations. Anyone can manufacture his own methods, but Srila Prabhupada said that we should follow the example of his ideal disciple. In my opinion this is very important for future generations of devotees.”
Citing Jayananda as one of the leading pioneers of Ratha-yatras, books distribution, prasadam distribution and street harinama-sankirtan in the Western world, Krishna-Mangala explains that to glorify him is very important for the entire Gaudiya Vaisnava Mission, because he was the first Vaishnava Saint of the Western world.
“In this regard, we think that Jayananda Prabhu has earned special treatment,” Krishna-Mangala says. “His Samadhi will be a great inspiration for the whole Vaishnava community, and Srila Prabhupada will be very, very glad.”
Devotees who would like to contribute towards the construction of Jayananda’s Samadhi in Mayapur, either with finances, or professional building skills, can contact Vishoka Dasa at email@example.com or Krishna-Mangala Dasa at firstname.lastname@example.org. The team is also looking for an item of clothing, a bead-bag, or some other personal effect that Jayananda used, so that they can bury it at the Pushpa Samadhi according to tradition.