In late October, the colleg e students and Radhadesh devotees had a magnificent opportunity to hear about Srila Prabhupada from two senior devotees, Dhananjaya Prabhu and Vishakha Mataji. They both related their personal experiences of joining the Hare Krishna movement and performing services for Srila Prabhupada. They also spoke about famous pastimes they were involved in. Dhananjaya joined ISKCON in London in 1969. He had practiced devotional service for only a short time before Prabhupada visited London. When Srila Prabhupada gave an arrival address and then asked for questions, Dhananjaya had a burning question on his mind and was the first to raise his hand.
Srila Prabhupada, in his deep, resounding voice said, “Yes?”
Dhananjaya asked, “Srila Prabhupada, when can I get initiated?”
Srila Prabhupada thought for a moment and said, “That we shall see.”
It was not a long wait. The following week he was initiated and given the name Dhananjaya, which means “the winner of wealth”.
Dhananjaya has more than lived up to his name, for he has won unlimited wealth. Not mundane, monetary wealth, but the blessings of a pure devotee, his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, for continuously endeavouring to spread Krsna consciousness worldwide.
On the direct order of Srila Prabhupada, Dhananjaya approached George Harrison about buying Pigott’s Manor, the property that became the famous Bhaktivedanta Manor.
He was the first pioneer to preach in Italy. There he brought many fallen souls to the shelter of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada visited Italy after Dhananjaya and Bala Gopala Dasi, his wife, had secured a center and funds. During Prabhupada’s short stay, the devotees held many astonishingly successful programs.
Srila Prabhupada was so pleased with Dhananjaya’s service that he said, “Because all you devotees have come here and spread Krsna consciousness to the Italian people, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu will personally come and take your hand to bring you back to Godhead.”
What more could a Vaisnava pray for? This is the supreme benediction and is sufficient in itself, but his service did not stop there. To this day, Dhananjaya is engaging all his time and energy in spreading the sankirtana movement.
Vishakha Mataji related her own experiences in the genre of a life’s journey, how one becomes interested in and stays faithful to the process of Krsna consciousness. She told about how from a young age she liked photography and as a teenager continued to study it. She met her future husband in a New York college, and she started work on a photography book. Meanwhile, her partner traveled to India, in 1971, with some devotees and had a life-transforming experience. He invited her to join him there for some time, and after a few months she arrived.
Vishakha had to go through numerous austerities while living with devotees at the Calcutta temple, and she was just on the point of leaving in frustration to return to her studies in New York when Srila Prabhupada visited. She heard him speak and went from feeling as though she was carrying a boulder on her back to feeling as light as air. Srila Prabhupada was her saving grace, and eventually she traveled with Srila Prabhupada to Vrndavan.
Vishakha and Yadubara decided to get married in Vrndavan, so Srila Prabhupada gave them his blessings, and she received initiation at the same time. None of her relatives were there, nor any of her friends from New York. All those who attended the wedding were there only because they happened to be, but Srila Prabhupada was there, and this more than made up for everyone else who couldn’t attend. Later, while traveling in India with Srila Prabhupada, Vishakha took many photos of him that are still cherished by devotees.
The college very much appreciated the association of these two great disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Students felt indebted to them for sharing what they hold most dear. Their experiences with Srila Prabhupada are like precious jewels, and they presented them without asking for anything in return. Younger devotees can come to know Srila Prabhupada by hearing about him from older devotees who served him and love him with all their heart. And hearing from them about Srila Prabhupada’s activities is heart rendering.
Written by Ramacandra Kaviraja Dasa