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All Auspicious Panna -- Priya Sakhi Devi Dasi
By Gauri das
Being circumstantially unable to attend dear Panna’s funeral today at this time, I offer her these words of tribute.
subhani prinanam sarva
sadgunah sukham ity adiny
Rupa Goswami describes devotional service (bhakti) as subhadatvam or ‘all-auspicious’. As evidence of this he chose to demonstrate it by the life and qualities of a devotee. The devotee is endearing and endeared by others, they develop all good qualities, and they live with happiness.
When I think of Panna, immediately this verse comes to mind. I always felt drawn to her company. Whenever I would see Rasik and Panna, or Panna and the Mulji ladies at the temple I always felt drawn to catch a couple of minutes of her company. A devotee is endearing, Panna was endearing. She had a beautiful smile and a charm that radiated from her, like a divine child, both pure and playful. Her company was delightful. I loved that she liked my jokes and she made a good few herself in return, often catching me off guard. She radiated goodness, a certain innocence that endeared her to many.
This endearing character of a devotee is because they have developed all the good qualities of the gods with a centrality of devotion to Krishna. This central quality of simplicity and sincerity of purpose in relationships and in love for Krishna, makes a devotee ‘all-auspicious’. Though as humans we all have flaws we also have divine qualities, qualities that Krishna has in absolute form, and that, Panna had in abundance.
The last time I spoke to Panna was just in front of the Goshala. She had been serving in the temple bakery near my office. She served there regularly and as I would come and go I would always get a smile and a wave from Panna through the glass window. On this occasion, Panna spoke of her on-going health challenges. Panna suffered over many years. In fact the first time I met Panna and Rasik was following the loss of their dear daughter, Palvi. I was living in Vrindavan at the time and they had come for pilgrimage and to perform some ceremonies. I was so moved by their company and could not quite find the words to respond adequately to their grief.
On this occasion meeting Panna near the Goshala I felt exactly the same. The challenges she continually faced were beyond my capacity to console. Even consoling words such as how through our personal suffering we find ourselves closer to Krishna, seemed to me inadequate as I could not help but feel that dear Panna had just more than her share of continued challenges. Panna suffered but I couldn’t say that she ever appeared depressed or unhappy. She was always cheerful and happy. Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote of being happy even in his unhappiness when engaged in the service of the Lord. He wrote of a state wherein despite life’s dualities and adversities, as a devotee he remained happily situated in the service of Krishna.
In life, Panna suffered tragic loss and continuous ill health, and still she was full of ‘sukha’ or happiness as Rupa Goswami describes. She was always a joyful presence in whose company others felt happy. This is what would leave me quite lost for words in her company. I found it difficult and mysterious why such suffering kept coming to her, it seemed unfair, difficult to digest, but Panna just carried on with her smile and wishing everyone well. I was lost for words because she was an example of what I should be as a devotee in the face of unwelcomed adversity, but which I could not fathom in those moments. Perhaps, through all such adversities, she could only chose to be the beautiful person she was, her deeply loving and soulful self.
Krishna speaks of His devotees remaining true to Him in heart, mind and prayers, always offering their obeisances, despite their suffering in the world. For such devotees, Krishna guarantees that they are the rightful inheritors of His kingdom. He puts them to task, He uses their karma accrued through lifetimes to remove all traces of material attachment that remains in their hearts. And they live among us as shinning examples of His grace and of what we must become in our own lives. Panna has always been such a shinning example, and she has now rightfully inherited her place with Krishna in the holy land of Vrindavan.
Panna, now Priya Sakhi – one who is dear to Krishna, is all-auspicious and by her association, for those of us fortunate enough to have had it, our lives can become auspicious too.
With love and respect,
In Honor of Govinda Hari Das
By Sacinandana Swami
Today we are remembering Govinda Hari Dasa, who was known to most people as Igor Spasov. He was a very sincere servant of Krishna, the devotees and mankind.
I first met Govinda Hari during a big public program in Serbia where thousands of people came to learn about the Krishna Consciousness and the chanting of the Holy Names. At that time, Govinda Hari was a well-known TV Host. He inspired many of his professional contacts to film such public programs and broadcast them. In this way the programs came to the awareness of the general public. Due to his efforts, Krishna Consciousness soon became well-respected in the countries where these TV broadcasts were seen. Later Govinda Hari made documentaries about devotees.
Govinda Hari first started as a host on TV, and then became my personal host in Belgrade. Whenever I used to visit Belgrade, he would graciously host me in his apartment. During those times, I had many opportunities to associate with him, discuss with him and explore the depths of the Bhagavad-gita. I always found Govinda Hari to be extremely curious and eager to learn more. In this way our relationship became more and more personal.
Soon I began to see that he took the world of Krishna Consciousness to be more important than the world which he was famous and praised in. This character trait continued throughout his life on this planet. There was no doubt in Govinda Hari’s mind about the reality of Krishna and the need to bring people into contact with what they had forgotten – their original spiritual consciousness. During our meetings Govinda Hari would often present exciting ideas about documentaries. Even when he was in Prague – teaching young students at University (the art of videography) – he would always slip Krishna Consciousness in. He would bring his students to the Govinda’s Restaurant and talk with them about Krishna. I heard that even during the present crisis of the Coronavirus, Govinda Hari played music outside from his balcony so that people from his apartment building and the street could hear. And he chose “My Sweet Lord” – by George Harrison – where the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra is prominently sung.
Today in honor of such a wonderful devotee, we made a little ceremony and sang the Holy Names for Govinda Hari – which were so dear to him. We prayed to Krishna that He takes His servant forward on his way back to Him. And as I was singing I remembered these and many more services, discussions, walks, how we laughed at the banks of the Danube, how he had organized halls and venues for programs, and one time, I remember he organized even a big ship where all devotees could experience Krishna Consciousness and then share this with others.
Govinda Hari Dasa is a very dear disciple of mine. I am still under the shock. When Madhva Muni Dasa told me this afternoon about the news of his departure – I could not believe it.
However, although I am shocked, I will pray that Krishna will take this wonderful devotee into His loving embrace. I request all devotees, friends and relatives to pray that Govinda Hari’s journey will take him to where he prepared to go during his time with us. Without such devotees, the world is a little darker. Let us honor him by helping to make the world a brighter place – while we are still here.
All glories to your service and the wonderful film that you made about the first generation of devotees in former Yugoslavia. Here is the film :