Bhakti’s theory can be studied in-depth, but trust comes easily when implemented. Sri Jayananda Prabhu is an example of a devotee who has walked the path of bhakti from beginning to end in an almost classical manner. When he left his body on May 1, 1977, Srila Prabhupada instructed that his disappearance day should be celebrated as a Vaisnava. Observing the pastimes of these devotees reaffirms one’s faith in the process of bhakti.
History of Sri Jayananda Prabhu
In Jim Kohr’s eyes, he was an all-American boy. Born in an upper-middle-class family, he’s both handsome and strong. He graduated from Ohio State University with honours in mechanical engineering after being named to the dean’s list every semester. Although he had the outward signs of success, he was dissatisfied with the material conception of life, which made him unhappy. Because Jim did not belong in the upper crust, it was no surprise that he worked as a cab driver in San Francisco. He was an introspective individual, but he was not religious in the traditional sense. When an Indian Swami arrived in San Francisco to spread the practice of chanting the names of God, a small San Francisco newspaper article saved his life. After reading the article, he had a glimmer of hope. He decided to attend the lecture by Indian Swami.
There are four distinct types of pious men in the Bhagavad Gita (7.16), according to Krishna: “the inquisitive,” “the wanton,” “the distressed,” and “the seeker of the Absolute.” In his quest for answers to his material woes, Jim took the first step toward his true destiny while still in this state of mind.
How Was He Attracted to Krishna’s Consciousness?
Krishna’s consciousness profoundly affected Jayananda, who became utterly absorbed in it. Daily, he would rise at least an hour early to perform some arati, chant his rounds of Japa, read holy books, and prepare prasad for his family and friends. After that, he’d go on an “incense run” (selling sticks). Krishna Consciousness was the only thing that mattered to him, so he never deviated from it.
Praise was Jayananda’s religion. He would gobble it up with his teeth for every drop on the floor. He was a huge fan of prasadam. His words showed love and devotion.
He had an undying devotion to Krishna’s consciousness regarding the holy name. During kirtans, he was frequently seen chanting and dancing enthusiastically. Others were looking forward to a day of rest after working hard for 10 hours straight, but Jayananda bounced into the temple room enthusiastically for kirtan. He tried to connect with every maha-mantra syllable in his Japa personally with intense concentration.
At the outset, Srila Rupa Goswami points out that faith is required to begin the sadhana-bhakti practice (sraddha). Later, a desire for devotee association (sadhu-sanga) and bhajan-kriya are born out of this faith (devotional service).
After meeting Srila Jayanand Prabhupada and other devotees at the temple on the advice of his spiritual master, Jayananda began performing devotional service like these two men. A pure devotee’s all-attractive qualities emerged as his sadhana was carried out sincerely, purifying him of material obstacles to devotional service (Martha Nivrttih).
How Was Sri Jayananda Prabhu’s Humility?
Jayananda’s most outstanding quality was his humility. Even new devotees were treated as his superiors because of his condescending demeanour. Despite his distinguished career, he was uninterested in the spotlight. He was wary of being praised. To keep Jayananda as an associate, devotees learned that they couldn’t praise him. His humility was innate, and he could always find something to praise about someone or something other than himself. As an elderly devotee, he was more than qualified to serve but was content to do so as a volunteer.
One time, a newcomer to the temple asked to help with trash collection because he wanted to do some good in the community. Jayananda cheerfully accepted the little help the boy gave him on his weekly trash run.
Regarding spreading Krishna’s consciousness, Sri Jayananda Prabhu was an all-around expert in cooking and preaching deity worship and public relations. He ran errands when he wasn’t fetching flowers, washing dishes, or sprucing the kitchen. It didn’t matter how hectic his schedule was or how much suffering he had to endure to complete the task. Sri Jayananda Prabhu ensured that whatever service he was asked to perform was carried out. He would never take a nap, no matter how long he worked.
To distribute prasadam, Jayananda would first organise an all-hands-on-deck crew to clean the kitchen twice as hard as anyone else. Later, he happily accepted the driver’s position for the Radha Damodara Sankirtan party, where he worked alongside devotees only a few years older. Despite his position and seniority, he never demanded anything special from his superiors and was happy to accept menial jobs under new followers.
I am the devotee of anyone who claims to be a devotee of my devotees. One who asserts to be my devotee is not my devotee,’ says Sri Krishna in the Vishnu Purana. “Dasanudasa,” or “servant of the servant,” was always his goal. But he was not a man of false humility. Jayananda’s spiritual humility was total and unwavering, regardless of the recipient’s status or qualities. He was a servant to all and didn’t expect anyone to be a servant to him.
Remembering and discussing God and His devotees’ virtues and pastimes, Sri Jayananda Prabhu, a devotee of Lord Krishna for only a short period, could perfect his devotional service and leave us a wealth of teachings by example.
Relationship of Sri Jayananda Prabhu With Srila Prabhupada
In Jayananda’s heart, Srila Prabhupada is the most excellent devotee. Srila Prabhupada’s teachings became the foundation of his life, and he perfected his devotion. He had reached a point where he could see that the only way to associate with the spiritual master was to adhere to his teachings. Like most devotees, Jayananda preferred staying out of the limelight and carrying out Srila Prabhupada’s instructions rather than seeking personal contact. He demonstrated the superiority of Vani (instructions) over vape (advice) in the context of learning (personal association). When Srila Prabhupada was inside the temple, he would always mention Jayananda. Instead of saying, “No, I can’t,” Jayananda would put up a fight. My hands are too filthy for this.
According to Caitanya Mahaprabhu in CC, one of the most fortunate living entities in the universe comes into contact with a representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is thus allowed to perform devotional service.
When Sri Jayananda Prabhu died in 1977, it was May 1. According to the scriptures, those genuinely devoted to the Lord appear to carry out His orders with the assistance of those who share their devotion. One can’t help but wonder if Jayananda was just there to serve his eternal spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada was still alive when he died is also a significant detail.