There’s a story going around the Internet which I have seen two-three times already. Instead of simply sharing it I’d rather retell it in my own words. I might get a few details wrong here and there but talking about pastimes of the Lord and His devotees is incomparably sweeter than simply hitting a share button. There are also no share buttons for wordpress – people are supposed to write their own stuff here and produce original content, and this is another example how reality controls our consciousness, pretty much like physical structure of our temple affected how we organized sankirtana, too, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago.
There was an old woman living in Azerbaijan, one of ex-USSR countries to the northeast from Turkey. She bought Bhagavad Gita somewhere, became Krishna’s devotee, and went to the temple address printed in the book. On that day there was some program specifically for new bhaktas and devotee conducting it told them to wait a little before they start. When he returned he was amazed to see this woman preaching Krishna conscious philosophy to everyone else and she was so enthusiastic about it that he didn’t even think of interrupting her.
Later on she decided to sell her apartment and move into the temple. By modern standards this would be considered crazy and irresponsible and our modern day ISKCON is not equipped to accept this kind of sacrifices, but maybe it was the time of Krishna conscious revolution in Russia or maybe it was okay by the standards of that society. Devotees built a separate room for her so that she would always have a place to stay, a kind of bhajan kutir.
She was a rather eccentric person and didn’t fit in many norms of devotional behavior. After a while people considered her slightly crazy and possibly even a sahajiya. She got Radha Krishna dolls somewhere and she worshiped them as her personal deities and when she talked to others she would often start with “Gopal told me that…” She was tolerated as a local curiosity, though.
Then one day she watched a documentary about an ancient temple of Lord Narasimha somewhere in India. It’s believed to be located on the spot where the Lord appeared and there are ruins of the original column from which He emerged. There’s a self-manifested deity of Narasimha inside a cave but there’s no regular worship because the temple is located deep in the jungle still full of tigers and there’s a point where one has to wade through water up to chest high to get to see the deity.
This lack of care inspired this mataji to go and restore the worship to its rightful glory. Never mind that she was seventy four years old already, even older than Prabhupada. Devotees thought it was a crazy idea and tried to talk her out of it but who can counteract “Gopal told” me arguments?
First they told her that no one knows where the temple is and promised that one devotee she knows who lives in Vrindavana would investigate and get back to her. That devotee also had no idea where this temple is located but just as he was about to reply he saw the documentary maker visiting Krishna Balaram Mandir and he had no choice but to ask. That way he got the exact location and instructions how to get there.
Next hurdle was that mataji didn’t speak English, never been to India, and so she should go to Vrindavana and meet this devotee first. The idea was that wonderfully sweet atmosphere of the Holy Dham would distract her and she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
So she arrived in New Delhi airport, the devotee met her and told her there were going to Vrindavana for a few days but she was adamant that she should go straight to Lord Narasimha. She demanded that he got her a ticket right away and gave her the address. It was up to him if he’d go along or not, but she was going. Of course he had to follow.
After a flight and a long taxi ride they arrived in the village and found a pujari’s house. He was seventy years old himself and his age was the main reason he could go and do puja only once a week. His son was translating. He explained the problems – the jungle, the tigers, lack of any kind of facilities, and the fact that women are not allowed to do puja. The mataji replied that Krishna wants to restore the worship and she spoke with such conviction and enthusiasm that no translation was necessary. Pujari’s eyes grew twice their size as if he was a blind man seeing the world for the first time. He had no choice but to agree.
Next day he took her to the temple and she saw an old abandoned cottage near cave’s entrance, it was leaning to one side so much that it was impossible to use a door there but mataji exclaimed that this is the accommodation prepared for her and that it’s all she needs. Amazed pujari got inspired to come and do puja daily, too.
Soon everybody from the village came to see this lady and they thought of her as a living saint. She set up all her deities there and people brought food and everything she needed. She became as much a place of pilgrimage as the temple itself. Eventually even the state governor heard of her and went to see for himself what was going on. He was so impressed that he ordered a proper road built there with all the amenities for pilgrims.
In this way the worship of this self-manifest deity was restored through efforts of an old “crazy” woman who couldn’t speak even English, let alone Hindi or the local dialect. She didn’t care about anything but following desires of the Lord and all the insurmountable obstacles on her path fell away in the face of her determination to serve.
She had a plastic chair in her cottage, which was also renovated, and she used this chair as “asana” for her deity of Krishna. She’d put the deity there and do her puja every day. One morning people came to see her as usual and she was standing on her knees in front of the deity, firmly clasping Lord’s feet and there was Bhagavad Gita tucked under her left arm. “Mata, Mata,” they called her but she didn’t respond – she left her body already.
Her name was Pada Sevanam – literally service to the Lord’s feet! Our spiritual names matter, there’s no doubt about that.
Her guru was HG Rohini Suta Prabhu, a famous book distributor from Germany who later got vilified for marrying his own disciple. This stuff simply doesn’t matter. Whichever way you look at it, he either brought this mataji back to Krishna or Krishna chosen him as her guru, but what really matters is that it worked and we shouldn’t listen to “ISKCON gurus are fake” crowd. We are in the safe hands and we all have the potential do amazing service to the Lord if we stopped seeing ourselves as limited by material conditions.
I’ll leave with pictures accompanying the story, I don’t think they are disrespectful at all: