Dhanurdhara Swami August 22nd, 2016
I went with Jaya Jagannātha to visit someone who is perhaps New York’s oldest living servant of Śrī Śrī Rādhā Muralīdhara. When I say oldest, I am not just referring to age, now past eighty, but years at Their lotus feet, now past thirty. Jayati Rādhikā has been visiting Śrī Śrī Rādhā Muralīdhara even before The Bhakti Center or The Sanctuary (its former namesake) existed, when they resided in a humble storefront on Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn, only eight blocks from her home. But I think she must have worshiped Them even longer than that, perhaps for many lives. I see in her all the symptoms of an old soul.
Jayati Rādhikā was not a hippy, or a straightedge, or from the yoga scene, and certainly not born in the movement, or any of the prominent sources or veins from where Hare Kṛṣṇa devotees are usually mined. She was just a simple middle class New York housewife, a mother and a dedicated registered nurse, when returning home from work in 1981 she encountered a young Hare Kṛṣṇa monk on the street and purchased from him an Easy Journey to Other Planets, one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s first books. When she reached home she read it from cover to cover, searched the address of the nearest ISKCON center, and that same Sunday visited the Rādhā Govinda Mandir. She never looked back, even though her family, although supportive, didn’t follow her on her journey.
Jayati Rādhikā is now bed-ridden, spending her last days in an assisted living facility in Western Massachusetts near the home of her daughter, but somehow she still greeted me with that same simple smile of contentment, a beam that had endured forty-eight regimens of chemotherapy over the last sixteen years and the constant pain of rheumatoid arthritis. That same smile had also belied her condition as she regularly trekked to The Bhakti Center every Sunday all the way from her home in Howard Beach, Queens. As we began kirtan, she closed her eyes and tapped her feet under the covers. When we finished the kirtan I began to reflect.
We read about advanced yogis who have practiced santoṣa (contentment). How many of them could have endured such ardor year after year without even the slightest scent of dejection or bitterness, not even when her husband fell ill in the last few years and was incapacitated mostly under her care. I inquired:
“How did you remain so joyful over the years despite the tribulations you faced and how do you remain so now even in the face of death and distanced from the association of devotees?”
She replied in her simple and guileless brogue, “Kṛṣṇa is in charge. Leave it to Him. Everything will be OK.”
I pressed further, “But aren’t you afraid of death?”
“People ask me that all the time. Not at all. I kind of look forward to it. I just know that Kṛṣṇa is in charge and if I leave it to Him, everything will be OK. I felt that from the first day I went to the temple.”
Although she spoke with such conviction, there was no alarm or drama in her reply. It was so matter of fact, almost amused, and certainly without fear. I pondered what she shared.
“Kṛṣṇa is in charge. Leave it to Him. Everything will be OK.”
What takes a lifetime of trial to realize, what is the essence of approaching the world and death with fearlessness, what is a realization so deep that it guarantees us entrance to the kingdom of God*, and a thought so transforming that it gifts us a heart of contentment and a smile of joy, was the property of this very simple housewife from the beginning of her spiritual life. How is this possible?
This is indeed a very old soul
* See Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.8