MK: Hare Krishna. Thank you for giving your interview. Please introduce yourself.
MD: My name is Madhai Das. I’m 66 years old. I am from Krsnapur, West Bengal. I was initiated by H.H. Jayapataka Swami in 1978.
MK: Tell about your life before joining and about the spirituality you were practicing before.
MD: In my house when I was a child they were doing Hare Krishna bhajan, but also worship of Kali and Ganesh. They were doing a big kitchri. When I went to school, I wanted to separate from this tradition and try to find my own way.
I joined Gaudiya Math, Krsna Math, Aravinda Mission and Bharat Sevasram Sanga, a impersonalist sannyasi ashram. I was practicing astanga-yoga, celibacy and meditation on omkara, to purify myself and become God. We were doing philanthropic activities, like distribution of food and medicine to the villages, but my mind was not satisfied. I was inclined to do kirtan, but because of association I had to follow impersonalism. I was like a yogi, with a big beard and big hair, with a rudraksa necklace, many rudraksas on my arms, and the marking of tilak on my forehead.
Then I saw some foreign devotees in Amedhabad, Gujarat, chanting here and there, and I was very surprised. “Why have they rejected their wealth to preach Sanatana Dharma? I could not do that.”
I met Srila Prabhupada in Bombay at a pandal program, and I spoke with him for few minutes, but I don’t remember.
After we came back to Amedhabad, a western mataji from America used to come to our ashram because our ashram and the ISKCON ashram were on the same road, side by side. She was coming every day to give a garland to our Krishna Deity and some prasadam to me. I was joining time to time at the ISKCON Temple, morning and evening, and I had a long talk with the ISKCON ashram President Yasomatinandana Prabhu.
In 1977, 15th, 16th, and 17th of January we attended the Kumba Mela for food distribution, and there was an ISKCON camp in Gangadwip, where I had darsan of Srila Prabhupada. In a very angry mood I asked many questions to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada used to say, “I am servant of God” and I said “I’m God”. H.H. Bhakti Caru Swami, Bhavananda Prabhu and Rameswara (his secretary) were there when the discussion was going on, and Srila Prabhupada convinced me in a very humble way, that I should take initiation from the Vaishnava side. Srila Prabhupada said, “Which kind of God are you? You are going to get old, be sick and die.” Once Srila Prabhupada asked me to take some prasadam and I agreed. Somebody gave him an apple and Srila Prabhupada said, “This is prasadam, just take it”, and again some argument came out. I said, “You are like another Sai Baba! You raise your hand and somebody gives you a fruit prasadam.” Srila Prabhupada said, “I’m not producing this prasadam. Somebody was keeping it, then gave it to me and I’m giving it to you.” I said, “Why is this apple not open? How has Krsna taken it and it become prasadam?” Srila Prabhupada was trying very seriously to look in my eyes to understand what I was saying. Then I asked for a knife and Bhavananda became very angry with me, but Srila Prabhupada said, “Give him a knife.” Bhavananda Prabhu asked, “Why do you need a knife?”
Srila Prabhupada said, “I know what he would like to do--he is a typical Bengali brahmana, karma kandi.”
Bhavananda Prabhu gave me the knife, but they were in anxiety. I peeled the apple and cut it into 16 parts. I gave one piece to Srila Prabhupada and I said “Give me half,” and Srila Prabhupada was laughing. I gave to him all 16 parts keeping half. At the 15th piece he told me “Start to take them, or you will loose them all.” But when I gave him the last piece, all the devotees jumped on the plate and all the maha-prasadam scattered here and there. Srila Prabhupada took one piece and put it directly in my mouth and said, “I told you to take it before, but this is enough for you. Now you’ve had Krsna prasadam, so you have to do something for Krsna.” Hearing his voice, a tremendous change happened in my mind--I left my ashram and my family. He asked me to chant the Hare Krsna Mantra and he said after associating with devotees, he would give me initiation and after a few months, the second initiation, and at the end of 1977, he would give me sannyassa because, he said, I was already in the sannyassa order. He told me that I have to follow the regulative principles, (that I had been already following for several years.) He gave me a mala, a Bhagavad Gita signed by him and a letter for Mayapur management. I asked him some questions. I didn’t cut my big beard and hair and I didn’t change my sannyassi dhoti. I said “Before taking initiation, I also want to test you” (I was such a rascal that you cannot imagine!) I put some conditions. “For one year wherever you go, I’ll be with you,” and several other conditions. Srila Prabhupada said “If you put conditions you’ll be cheated. You cannot cheat Krsna--He is the biggest cheater. Do you have any more questions?” I said, “no.” Then Srila Prabhupada said, “I said okay to all your conditions, now whatever I request you, you have to say okay.” In the letter he wrote that I have to stay in Mayapur from that day. I said, “No!” but Srila Prabhupada replied, “I was keeping silent to your conditions. Now you have to keep silent. This is etiquette. You asked to stay with me for one year, but you didn’t put the date--I’ll put the date--if Krsna recommends then you can stay with me.”
When Srila Prabhupada gave me prasadam, Rameswara asked if he had to put my name as a disciple in the diary, but I said, “No, I have to check.”
H.H. Satsvarupa Maharaja was writing in the Prayag chapter [of Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita] “How a Sanyassi Mayavadi Can Become a Devotee,” but in ‘78 there was a very big flood. All the photos and my documents were gone-- he couldn’t prove it and so he didn’t write it in his book. Afterwards, I took initiation from H.H. Jayapataka Swami, Srila Prabhupada’s representative, in ‘78. I was appointed as Gurukula teacher and after that, H.H. Jayapataka Swami sent me to Nepal to open a new school. After two years I became temple commander and sankirtan leader . ‘85-‘86 I was Temple president and I came to Allahabad. Srila Prabhupada had asked me if I could do something in Allahabad, and after a very hard struggle, I opened a centre which is existing now. I was there from 1990 to 2001, then I resigned and I came here to take sannyassa. H.H. Prabhavisnu Swami and H.H. Maha Visnu Swami helped me a lot and they recommended me for sannyass. In 2001, I became very sick and Mayapur devotees took very nice care of me. From that time I’m staying in Mayapur. My service is in the library, at the top floor of the brahmacari building, and I’m doing Bhakti Vaibhava course.
MK: Do you have some stories that you’d like to share?
MD: 1) When I was in the Sevasrama, the Gaudiya Math Temple was attacked by Mohammedans and the Swami of Sevasrama ordered us to go and protect the temple. All the brahmacari went there, the devotees left, and the Muslims cut their sikhas [of the devotees who remained] and threw the Deities out! Some people died. About this, I put some questions to Srila Prabhupada. I said, “Why do the devotees, when there is need for action and to protect the Temple, leave?” and he said, “Everything happens under Krishna’s sanction.”
2) In ’78, the rainy season flood flooded the area, and then came the news that some dacoits will come to Mayapur to attack the goshalla. During night time, we had no light, no boat, so we cut two banana trees, and we put them under our arms and swam to the goshalla to protect it. We didn’t have facilities at that time, but we were so enthusiastic to work for Krishna that we stayed there all night and came back next morning.
3)We went (H.H. Jayapataka Swami, myself and other devotees) to distribute flat rice and gur in a village and some boys were saying some ill words to the devotees. Blasphemy. But they couldn’t understand the meaning. When the boys came to me, I slapped them but H.H. Jayapataka Swami told me they were innocent boys, and that we have to tolerate them, and that they didn’t hurt me. From that day, I realized that my duty is to preach to ignorant people, and I don’t have to hurt them.
4) I was traveling with a sankirtan van in Sikkim and I went to a Buddhist temple in Mangpur. There they were killing cows and eating them. I gave a lecture and I preached not to kill the cows. The Buddhists became very angry with me and started to chase me. I was running and I arrived in the house of Kailash Sahlvalla. I entered into a room and his wife had just delivered a child a few minutes before. There was a lot of blood and clothes and I hid myself under the bed. I was afraid and I was praying to Krsna, “Krsna, I was preaching. This is my duty. I have to protect the cows that are so dear to You. Please help me!” The Buddhists came in the room, but the ladies didn’t speak and the husband took a gun and start to scream at them to go away and leave his wife peacefully with the child and fortunately they left.
After this, I went to the Defense Minister of the city. He brought me back to the temple and I gave again the lecture. The Defense Minister became a devotee that day, and also a Buddhist of that temple became a devotee.
5) When the Gurukula was in the boundary wall in the beginning, there was a big problem with the bathroom. The water was stuck and the bathroom was full of filthy water. I went to Navadvip and I collected a lot of money to repair the bathrooms, but the devotee in charge didn’t fix them. Srila Prabhupada came in my dream, and he was angry with me: “You cannot do it by yourself? Are you the teacher of these boys? You don’t want to serve? Wake up and do it by yourself.” So I did my best to follow Srila Prabhupada’s order and with great determination I opened the bathroom. I cleaned everything, I repaired and the bathrooms became very nice. I was completely wet with the filthy water, but I obeyed Srila Prabhupada’s order to me.
MK: What attracted you the most that convinced you to join?
MD: I liked how they care for the devotees’ lives, and how they try to keep the devotees together, working cooperatively. In the math, they force you to do things but in ISKCON, they ask, “What are your skills, and what do you most like to do?” Srila Prabhupada used to say, “Whatever you are able to do, do this for Krishna.”
MK: What’s keeping your faith and enthusiasm after so many years?
MD: The Deities and the chanting. The Deities inspire me with Their very charming faces. It seems that They want to say something when I look at Them. They want for us to chant offenselessly and always pray to Them. They have a very special feature in Mayapur, that as soon as you have some desire and ask Them, They arrange something to fulfill that desire. When you look at Them, your desires disappear.
MK: Which is the biggest obstacle you have had in your spiritual life and how did you survive?
MD: I was Bhagavan! It took me a lot of time to understand Krishna is Bhagavan, that He is Paramesvara, the Controller of the controllers. I overcame it by the association of the devotees. They helped me to rectify that idea. Also, in the Bharat Sevasram ,they were trying to kidnap me and telling that alive or dead, my head should be there. I was very afraid of them, but Bhavananda Prabhu and Nitai Candra Prabhu helped me very much.
MK: Do you have any special friend in Mayapur?
MD: Yes, H.H. Gauranga Prema Maharaja, even if he is younger, we are very nice friends. And Adwaita Acarya Prabhu. Their lives and advice always revive my consciousness, and I appreciate very much their personal dealings. Of course H.H. Jayapataka Maharaja is my main inspiration. He gives me the enthusiasm to work and work, and to put Krsna in the center.