Tribute to Mother Kulangana
Please find below the beautiful tribute by HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja to Her Grace Mother Kulangana during her memorial service last Saturday, 19th August 2017, at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Mother Kulangana was a very senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada and had spent the last 27 years of her life serving Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda at Bhaktivedanta Manor.
Please find the transcription of the lecture below:
Srila Prabhupada was a very special personality, who was sent by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to fulfill His prediction. We can see from Srila Prabhupada’s life and achievement what a unique personality he was. One thing becomes clear – Srila Prabhupada was sent by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to fulfill His prediction. And when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sent Srila Prabhupada to this world, we can also see that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arranged some very, very special personalities to also come to assist him and to further his mission. Mother Kulangana was undoubtedly one such personality. [applause] There had been devotees (Srila Prabhupada’s disciples) who had been extremely outstanding in their achievements, like the early leaders of the movement. Those who came to assist Srila Prabhupada, many of them were obviously very special spiritual personalities. Prabhupada himself admitted on more than one occasion that many of his disciples were actually sent by his Guru Maharaja to assist him in his movement, and he also said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sent them to assist this movement – outstanding personalities. But at the same time, we also see some personalities who are not so visibly outstanding in their achievements and accomplishments. Many such devotees had been serving in ISKCON from the background, and they are not visible, but they are outstanding personalities. Their purity is actually carrying this movement forward. Prabhupada himself said that the purity is the force of this movement; it is the purity of the devotees that will further the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu through His ISKCON. And in that way we can see that Mother Kulangana was such a person who always stayed in the background. Most probably many of us did not even notice her. I will admit, I did not notice her, although I had been coming to the UK, especially to Soho Street and Bhaktivedanta Manor. Of course, those days there were so many devotees at the Manor – so many Prabhupada’s disciples, so many godbrothers, so many godsisters. Actually, I noticed Mother Kulangana when I first saw thissandesh with the beautiful paintings on it. [laughs] It was something unique! Never in ISKCON, nowhere in ISKCON we actually developed this culture of painting the sandesh. And that was Mother Kulangana’s special innovation – at least as far as my understanding goes. And my immediate question actually was, “Who was that? Who made this?” That was the first time I got to know Mother Kulangana.
Of course, with the passing of time, she became one of the most prominent member of this community. Not only in the UK, devotees all over the world know Mother Kulangana, and she is famous for her painted mangala-arotrika sweets. Then we developed a relationship with her. She was an extremely friendly person, extremely humble. We developed a kind of friendly relationship. Of course, she was senior to me by age and she used to treat me like a younger brother. She was very appreciative of whatever I was trying to do. Often when I used to have retreats in different parts of Europe – sometimes in the UK also – for years together Mother Kulangana would always take part in those retreats. She kind of became a very special part of our retreat, and I also noticed that the devotees respected her immensely. Especially the Vaishnavis found a very special shelter under her care.
[To a devotee:] I forgot your name. [Devotee: Murari Gopal] Murari Gopal Prabhu mentioned that she was a spiritual master. She was a spiritual master. It is not that in order to be a spiritual master we need a stamp from ISKCON. By our behavior, by our activities, one actually becomes a spiritual master, and undoubtedly she was a spiritual master. Actually, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wanted that everybody should become a spiritual master, whether he gets the recognition of a spiritual master or not. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said amara ajnaya guru haya, “On My order you all become a spiritual master.” [Cc Madhya-Lila 7.128] And she was undoubtedly a spiritual master. A spiritual master or acharya teaches by his or her own example, and she did teach by her own example. So dedicated, so sincerely involved in serving, so concerned about the welfare of the devotees around her – these are the qualities that make one a spiritual master. And today we can see how many devotees have been affected by her, by her example, by her care.
She was so Krishna Conscious. As that devotee, that mataji before me, mentioned, she used to say, “Let’s go back to Godhead! Let’s all go back to Godhead!” [laughs] Yes, that is our mission: Let’s go back to Godhead. What are we doing here? As long as we are here, let’s utilize our time and energy in serving Krishna. Otherwise, we have nothing to do in this material nature. Our destination is back to Godhead, and that’s what Srila Prabhupada taught everyone.
So we can see that she was completely committed to serving Krishna and her goal was to go back to the spiritual world. And we can see how she left her body. When I got to know that her condition was so serious, I phoned her. We could not properly have a dialogue, because she was probably not understanding what I was saying and I was not understanding what she was saying, because on the phone it sometimes becomes difficult to understand, so I started to chant. And she responded so beautifully; she just kept on chanting. Then, when I was about to finish, about to end, she just started to glorify the book that I wrote about Srila Prabhupada, my days with Srila Prabhupada. And later on I found out that she told Agatha, this girl from Poland, to translate the book into Polish. [Devotees: Haribol!] She gave her the assignment: “Youmust translate this book into Polish!” [laughs] What did she like so much about the book? She told that it spoke about Srila Prabhupada in so much detail, especially Srila Prabhupada’s last days, how Prabhupada decided to go to Vrindavana to leave his body, and then finally how Srila Prabhupada left his body.
I had the good fortune of being here at the time when she left her body. When I was speaking to her, that was on the second or third – no, I’m sorry, it was on the fifth of August – I had a strong feeling that she is not going to leave now; Janmastami is just around the corner! I told her, I was supposed to come here on the twelfth, so I told her, “I will see you soon.” [laughs] I feel very fortunate that I could get to see her once again when I came back. When we saw her, it reminded me of Srila Prabhupada, how Prabhupada actually left. When Srila Prabhupada left his body, Prabhupada was completely withdrawn. He was fully conscious, but he was withdrawn; he did not want to get involved in anything. Only when his godbrothers came to see him the night before Prabhupada left, Prabhupada actually responded, and we could see that otherwise Prabhupada was completely withdrawn. Devotees used to come and chant in his room very softly. Otherwise, Prabhupada was completely withdrawn. And I saw Mother Kulangana; she was completely withdrawn. So remembering those days with Srila Prabhupada I also started to chant, and when I started to chant, I could see that she also was singing with us.
And in what an amazing way she left her body. I was thinking that Janmastami is just around the corner, and, yes, just the day before Janmastami she decides to leave. Sruti Dharma, Pranabandhu Prabhu and myself were discussing that she left on the eve of Janmastami – what a wonderful way of leaving! But then I got to know that Janmastami tithi had already started at three o’clock! She left around six o’clock and the tithi, the day of Janmastami, already started at three o’clock. So she did not leave on the eve of Janmastami, but she left on the day of Janmastami. [applause] And what an amazing way of leaving: She left on the day of Janmastami, but in such a way that she could go back to the spiritual world and for Janmastami she could make the sweets for Krishna! [Devotees: Haribol!] This was actually Shruti Dharma Prabhu’s statement, that she left in such a way that she can go back to the spiritual world and make the sweets for Krishna.
So this is how we are seeing how authentic this movement is. At least we cannot possibly have any doubt about the authenticity of this movement. How do we find out about the authenticity? The way the devotees leave their body in this movement – that is the indication. And Mother Kulangana’s departure is a brilliant example. And on the day of Janmastami we were sitting upstairs with Anil Aggarwal and we were discussing about Mother Kulangana. Anil actually made a very nice statement. He said, “These personalities can decide for themselves when they will leave the planet.” That was a very nice statement. As if Mother Kulangana decided for herself when she was going to leave this planet, and she left the planet in a perfect way for the spiritual world.
Another wonderful thing I noticed about Mother Kulangana: When I was seeing her, her mouth was open. That reminds me, that was also the case with Srila Prabhupada. When Srila Prabhupada was leaving his body, Prabhupada’s godbrother, Krishnadasa Babaji Maharaja, was sitting at the head of Srila Prabhupada, and I was giving water to Srila Prabhupada. Babaji Maharaja told me, “See, he is still chanting.” I did not notice, because Prabhupada’s mouth was opening from time to time and I was pouring in Yamuna water. Babaji Maharaja pointed out, “He is still chanting”, and then he said, “See, how his tongue is vibrating.” And I could see that when Prabhupada opened his mouth, his tongue was rhythmically vibrating. Although we could not hear the sound, we could actually see that Srila Prabhupada was chanting the Holy Name. That’s how Prabhupada left his body – chanting. That’s why his mouth was open. The same thing I noticed with Mother Kulangana: Her mouth was open. And I could also see when I was chanting in front of her that she was chanting.
So these are the clear indications, these are the demonstrations of one’s faith in the Holy Name, and this is how the good fortune is created by the devotees for the departing souls. They chant, they remind the devotees to chant the Holy Name. Those who have been chanting for years together, how can they forget to chant at the time of death? Therefore, a devotee doesn’t die, he or she leaves the body to go back to the spiritual world. So undoubtedly Mother Kulangana was one such pure devotee who came to serve Srila Prabhupada and through her own example demonstrated to everyone the authenticity of this process of Krishna Consciousness.
Mother Kulangana ki jaya!
Gaura Premanande Hari Haribol!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!