Memorial Celebration for Yamuna Devi at New Vrindavan
“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
Last night the New Vrindaban community celebrated the life of a well-known and much loved godsister of the Hare Krishna movement, who passed away recently, namely Yamuna Devi. Even if you didn’t know her personally, you certainly felt as if she’d been one of your ever well-wishers after this memorial.
Following Malati Dasi’s expertly managed introduction along with the efficient help of Rasikananda Das, and despite minor technical glitches, we sang “Je Anilo” lead by the beautifully smooth voice of Karnamrita dasi over the telephone air waves.
Then we heard three wonderful talks given by Yamuna Devi. First she spoke of how 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”, which Kausalya later in the evening confirmed. Once in India, Yamuna and Kausalya 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!
Yogesvara Das also spoke via Skype to everyone gathered in the temple room here. He spoke about the adventures of publishing Yamuna’s famous cookbook, “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine.” He related an amazing story of how, despite all odds and against most conventions, this amazing cookbook won the 1986 best Asian cookbook of the year. Then, to top that, in an unprecedented decision by the panel of the International Association of Cooking Professionals that same year, they awarded 1st prize to “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine” , which is the Pulitzer prize-equivalent in the cooking world.
Kausalya 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!”
The evening was very enlivening and, as Malati expressed, "Yamuna devi will stay ever alive in our hearts and our minds".