I will finish this small attempt at appreciation of Yamuna devi’s unlimited qualities and character with a few photos and recollection of the last time I saw her personally in 2010 at Saranagati farm in Canada.
Akrura prabhu, the Vancouver temple president invited me over in late May 2010. I hadn’t been there since 1994 so I was overdue for a visit and looking forward to it. But high on my agenda was a trip to Saranagati, a well-known but remote outpost of Krsna consciousness and home to some distinguished residents.
Apart from fulfilling a long standing curiosity about the farm, I was excited because I would be seeing Yamuna. In fact I had written to my wife Sitala “I am only going because Yamuna is there.”
We had had the immense pleasure of hosting Yamuna in Mayapur for two months in the flat next to ours during the winter of 2009 so my visit to Saranagati was a kind of reciprocation.
Here’s the report I sent to Sitala on May 30th 2010, two days after. It sums up nicely the visit:
“The trip to Saranagati was well worth it although I was only there half a day and one night. Its a long drive of 4 hrs. I stayed at Kala and Yasomati’s house for Lord Nrsimhadeva’s appearance. They invited friends and relatives and about a dozen people turned up. It was low key but still very enjoyable.”
“Next day we drove up to Sarangati with Krsnadas, Kala’s son, and his Iranian girl friend Asadah. It was a long drive through continuous mountains, with very impressive country side of mainly pine and fir forests and deep river gorges. The area where the farm is doesn’t look very good, a kind of high desert region, but once you climb the dirt road up the mountain side, you come to a plateau and about 3,000 acres of land and forest owned by ISKCON and the devotees. Its quite like a shangrila.”
“There are about 20+ private houses scattered within 2-3 kilometers of each other. We had lunch with a very nice devotee Yoginatha prabhu and Vishakha came to join us. Yadubara is down in LA for the Prabhupada festival.”
“Then we visited the school. Kar and Radha have had a beautiful little boy just three weeks ago, and they run the school.”
“For convenience they have moved into a large room in the school building. They have about a dozen girls and one boy currently in the school and a few couples with children are about to move there. It was a nice set up, very Krsna conscious, and all the kids, who range from about 5-16 yrs. are very sweet, innocent and eager to hear about Srila Prabhupada. I spoke for about 15 mins.”
“Then we went off to Yamuna’s. I was surprised to see a modern looking bungalow.
“I had heard about its straw bale construction and was expecting something a little crude, but its a well designed attractive house. And the interior is exceptionally beautiful, not so much because of its architecture but more because every inch of it oozes bhakti.”
“Yamuna and Dina (who arrived back from Florida just as we were leaving)
have decorated every nook and cranny with beautiful expressions of their love for Sri Sri Radha Banabihari. Yamuna is such an artistic and thoughtful person, and her attention to every little detail comes shining through.”
“We spent a couple of hours with her, it was a delight. She is such a deep, sober and good hearted devotee. She was very happy to see me and we had an extremely enjoyable meet. It was worth the trip just to see her.”
That was the last time we met personally. Late in 2010 she became seriously ill, had to go to Mumbai for treatment and ended up leaving Saranagati, never to return. She and Dina moved south to Melbourne Beach Florida. In mid-August this year while I was on tour in Spain, I was thinking about her a lot and wrote to ask her how she was faring. I received this letter in response on Lord Balarama’s appearance day, my last communication with her:
Dear Hari Sauri Prabhu,
Sree Balaram Mahotsava keejay
How auspicious to hear from you on this sacred eve. Thank You for thinking
of me at all, what to speak of lately. Truth be told, think of all three of
you often–I have many photos Rama Devi gave me of you, your daughter’s
initiation, and 1500 photos of archa vigrahah in Mayapur dham on my screen
saver. So you are never far out of mind.
Well the free fall that began nearly a year ago ended two months ago
tomorrow, when on June 13th we moved into our eighth floor. furnished beach
front condo rental. We have named the place Melbourne Beach-Puri-by-the-Sea.
It’s a year rental for now. No sale of our Saranagati ashram. In the last
decade, only two families moved there, but more moved out. Time will reveal
that one. Cannot even consider our next move until we sell that ashram.
At any rate, here we are in a clean environment with running water and
enough electricity and we feel blessed to be here. Krsna so very kindly gave
us a swift kick to remove us from Saranagati and place us elsewhere. This
particular dham is most conducive to healing and rejuvenation, and we are
deeply grateful for it.
Taken time to settle in, and so far, engaged almost exclusively chanting and
reading and physical rejuvenation and serving Their Lordships. Here is a
photo of Radha Banabehari taken this morning in the small alter environment
we made for Them in a smallish temple room;
a snap Dina took this morning of ‘turtle tracks heading seaward’ and her friend the blue
heron crane on the steps to the beach,
and a snap I took of sunrise from our porch.
Think you get a peek into our peace and opulence in our lives.
My health: Exercise in the pool daily at dawn (Dina on her beach japa walk)
before morning Bhagavatam class; too good for words. Starting a two week
liver cleanse day after tomorrow as pre-op for a minor laproscopy surgery
August 29th. So in between Janmastami-Vyasa puja next weekend, heading up to
Gainsville three times for doctor appointments and tests. All in all, my
health is slowly but very surely improving for the better, gaining mobility
and strength, as is Dina.
Got my research materials sent down here from Saranagati, and plan to begin
writing in September. Dina will soon begin editing a book from the Radhanath
Back at you: how are all of you? Health? Any new book volumes out from you?
Sitala still in Poland giving KC as only she can do? Your daughter? Saw an
ecstatic Kirtan online with Madhava at Woodstock.
Your always aspiring servants.
Yamuna and Dinatarine
I don’t know if Yamuna did start writing again. Her book was the one most devotees were looking forward to reading. Now she’s gone, heading off into the sunset of Melbourne Beach and into the eternal sunshine of Goloka Vrndavana to serve her beloved Radha Banavihari and Srila Prabhupada. She will be sorely missed.
I hope to have the privilege to see you again sometime Yamuna devi.
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