Interview with Lalita Sakhi dasi
Whatever Vaishnavas do, it always has a quality mark on it, because they are invariably guided by love, humility and great dedication. Srimati Manorupa was exactly such a person. One can see her successor Lalita Sakhi dasi to be the same. She reveals the delightful image of the film's heroine, being the second wife and assistant of Shriman Prahlad Narasimha, the original and outstanding preacher of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Such kind of relationships can truly be called Vedic.
“The lives of Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu and Manorupa is exactly the ideal love story that I have been desiring to see in reality since childhood. In spite of everything, I always believed in love.”
Dear Lalita Sakhi Mataji, there are not many worldview-life changing movies produced these days. As far as I understand, you had nothing to do with the film industry. And suddenly your film was released. Not only does it change consciousness, but it also becomes a practical spiritual guide for everyone. Please, reveal the secret of its success to our readers who are not yet familiar with you.
I don't consider this film to be mine. I think that the Lord Himself wanted it to appear. The story is based on real events and it attracts everyone. The Vedic Scriptures provide us with ideal instructions for all occasions, exemplified by great personalities. But as our faith is still weak, we often justify ourselves by the fact that in the modern world it is impossible to imitate the life of the great devotees of the times of the Vedic civilization. And here we are witnessing an example of our days — how skillfully the ancient knowledge is applied by our contemporaries.
And we also witness the experience of deep spiritual love between husband and wife. In all this, I get the inspiration that I have tried to convey to the public. The film “Manorupa” is about a woman who devoted her entire life in Krishna consciousness to serving her husband and what her sincere devotion to the dharma led to.
After the premiere of the film in the ashram of my Guru Maharaja in Kazakhstan, his dear wife, mother Gauracandrika was very impressed. Guru Maharaj blessed us to continue making such films and asked Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu to write a book about family life.
“Her true Vaishnavi humility enhanced her saintliness”.
Lalita Sakhi, you have taken on a very difficult topic: family life of your husband before meeting you. Many people admire this fact. How did you manage to reveal the image of Srimati Manorupa with such an impeccably pure approach, without a sense of competition?
From the very first day, I was unable to talk about this family without tears of gratitude. I realized frailty of the material world in early age and searched for the source of eternal happiness frantically. And when I met the devotees of Krishna, I immediately accepted them in my heart as a Lord’s Gift, as His answer to my prayers.
The lives of Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu and Manorupa is exactly the ideal love story that I have been desiring to see in reality since childhood. In spite of everything, I always believed in love. I consider all sincere devotees as great servants of Lord Caitanya's mission. There can be no competition in spiritual relationships, only responsibility to Srila Prabhupada. In my life, I want to carry the example of civilized relationships that my husband teaches me.
How did you first meet Manorupa?
This is where the film begins. First, I saw Manorupa at the Mayapur Temple in 2013. She was gazing at the Deities on the altar. Her look was full of love and devotion to the Lord, and the grey hair made her face even more noble and wise. I believe that her beauty has delighted many people. She had so much Krishna, so much purity.
Her true Vaishnavi humility enhanced her saintliness.
I asked a girl next to me: “Who is this mataji?” Her answer was: “Oh, this is our mataji Manorupa. She with her husband come to Mayapur frequently. Their sons are studying in Gurukula. She is a very humble and devoted wife. She is paying obeisances to her husband, brings him shoes in the Temple. And he is a very strict and exalted Vaishnava.” I listened, holding my breath and thought: “How such a beautiful woman can pay obeisance to a strict husband?”
This impressed me greatly. The next day I saw Manorupa again in the temple. She was standing in front of the altar and her husband behind her. It was obvious that they had deep spiritual qualities and her husband appreciated her presence.
When did you found out that Mataji Manorupa was terminally ill?
In 2014, I served in the department of Devotee care and assistance team. In mid-December, our leader told me that we are waiting for a family who may need our help. She just gave their names without details: “Mataji is terminally ill and comes to leave her body in Mayapur. “Lalita Sakhi, it will be your case.”
“It will be your case!” It sounds like a prophecy.
Yes, exactly. When I came to their hotel room in the Conch building aside of the Temple, I immediately recognized them. I was speechless and realized that this would not be “my case”, because all the residents of Mayapur would want to serve these Vaishnavas and they would not need the support of our department. I was sure, that Manorupa has a return ticket to the spiritual world. I approached her and greeted with the words: “Mataji, how lucky you are, you are going Home!”. She looked at me and gently smiled.
During my service in Mayapur community I received so much “maha-prasadam” from senior women, disciples of Srila Prabhupada. And of course, I had a desire to get some things as a blessing from Manorupa too.
After the farewell ceremony, a close friend of hers replied for my request that she had nothing for me. But I did not despair, realizing that I had received the most valuable thing - a short association of an extraordinary soul. Who would ever had thought what kind of “maha-prasadam” was waiting for me...
"When will be our wedding?"
Lalita Sakhi Mataji, your meeting with Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu is nothing but destiny.
Yes, and Krishna showed it. Four years ago, Prabhu expressed a desire to visit my home city of Khanty-Mansiysk. He gave so much love to my fellow countrymen! For two months every day he consulted people and gave lectures, organised a Festival of Lights “Diwali”. Prabhu also sponsored of the Vedic Culture Festival, which he organised with devotees from Omsk community.
And soon that miracle happened. Before to leave the city, I went to send my passport for an Indian embassy and passed by my father's house. I spend my childhood and teen years there. At that moment, I was filled with a feeling of deep gratitude to my husband. Stopping at a crossroads, looking at my windows, I thanked the past for the fact that it no longer existed. On the first floor, I noticed a flickering window of a new store. Prabhu always pays attention to the special names and deciphers their meanings. And I was thinking: maybe I also will see some meaning in its name? Coming closer I was shocked.
Through the branches of young trees, a sign was looking at me, on which the surname of my husband, “Velez”, was written in large letters. Right under my windows! Emotions captured me, and I sobbed with happiness not hiding from passersby. There was a store selling plants and seeds. Velez is the Slavic God of Astrology, Agriculture and protection of Animals, I guess that is why they call the Store “Velez”.
It's amazing! Do you often see signs on the path of your life?
Krishna speaks constantly through signs. I can share another miracle with you. On the same day 2013, when I met Manorupa and her husband in the Temple, I was invited to Vivaha-yagia, a marriage ceremony. I did not know the exact address and luckily I met this beautiful couple in the Grihastha park. From their appearance, I understood that they were also going to the same wedding. Hoping that Manorupa will point me to the right building, I was trying my best to ask in English the following: “Excuse me, please, where will be the wedding?" As my English was poor, i didn’t know how to speak properly.
Her husband unexpectedly replied: “Are you sure?” I was very embarrassed. It seems that I did not understand what I had said, but I repeated my question. Prabhu asked again, “Are you sure?” I was confused. He saw that I did not understand what is going on and pointed at the right building. Manorupa's voice, which I wanted to hear so much, remained a mystery to me. She did not say a word, watching our confused conversation with a sweet smile.
It turns out that instead of: “Where will this wedding take place?” I asked: “When will be our wedding?”!!
And moreover, before leaving their house on the way to Vivaha-yagia, Prabhu hurried Manorupa to be on time. And going down the steps, putting on an earring, she said this as a joke, “Prabhusei, you need a second wife! One will go to every events with you on time, and I will do all the other services!” “Ok, Mano, I'll think about it.. I’ll ask Krishna.... hurry up!” - he joked. And in few minutes after, on their way to a wedding I appeared out of the blue, asking "The question".
In the evening Prabhu recalled this incident: “Krishna is an unsurpassed joker, fulfills all your desires! You see, Mano, be careful with your desires, He immediately sent me a wife!”
At the right hour, Prabhu told me what story. After my meeting with Manorupa in December 2014, she said to her husband, “Prabhusei, please don't ask anyone to take care of me. I am able to take care of my own.... And do you recognise this girl?” He didn’t. “She is the same girl who asked you: “When will be our wedding?” Oh, yes, I remember.
It all looks like a fairy tale! And what prompted Manorupa's question, does Prabhu remember you? Did she really want her husband to marry again, despite the fact that they had deep feelings to each other?
Recalling this incident Manorupa, in her “Deathbed" said, “Prabhusei, you always read the signs. Please read this sign.”
She understood that her husband would not be able to travel and preach without the help of a wife and prayed for it. She considered him as her Guru, who is dear to thousands of seeking souls and she didn't appropriate him for herself. Prabhu didn't want to hear about another wife. He thought that Krishna was dissatisfied with his service since He took away his beloved wife and assistant, who served him like a whole team of brahmachari, helping him to preach peacefully.
He thought to go to leave in Vrindavan and immerse himself in his bhajan. And suddenly Manorupa reminds him that there are two wives in his horoscope: “Imagine if I am supposed to be your second wife, would you reject me?” These words made an impact in Prabhu and he accept her request, if for that will be Krishna’s will.
“I realized how useless our efforts are without complete surrender. Krishna Himself entrusts us such service that leads us towards Him”.
Obviously you received Manorupa's unspoken blessing! Then how did your meeting with Prabhu happen? How did he understand that you were the one?
I was looking for the real guidance, and the only astrologer to whom I could entrust my destiny was Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu. He made his wife happy in Krishna consciousness, so I understood that if he can correct my path, and show me the direction, it will be a great mercy and good fortune. During that period of my intensive service in Mayapur community, in the agonizing expectation of the distinctness of my fate, I suddenly decided that I did not deserve happiness in a family life and renounced the desire to ever get married. I was almost forty. And I completely surrendered myself into the Hands of the Lord, deciding that I would continue to serve the women of Mayapur in the “Vaishnavi-SPA” that I had created a year ago. “Krishna, You can do with me whatever You want!”
I realized how useless our efforts are without complete surrender. Krishna Himself entrusts us such service that leads us towards Him. And we are missing our opportunities. Relying on our mind, we can easily lose His gratuitous mercy, in search of independence. Krishna just wants us to continue serving Him, putting ourselves in His Hands.
The astrological consultation did not take place in May, because Prabhu stoped his astro readings. Later Prabhu decided to have a reunion with his boys in Kuala Lumpur. He left Ecuador on the 25 of August. It was exactly the day of my birthday. At the airport he saw the Facebook birthdays reminder and he kindly send me congratulations in the time-line, and I answered right away. He notice that it was me, who was asking for the reading some month ago. He asked me if I am ok. I told him that I will be honored if he can read my chart and guide me. At that moment of time, I did not know how many signs Prabhu saw in my horoscope. And this is another magical story that he loves to tell, admiring Krishna and His miracles. He compares my horoscope to a new part of his clockwork mechanism that became inoperative since Manorupa's departure. He said that my Horoscope perfectly matched his needs and his clock of Time it started to work again. We have similar planet combinations with Manorupa. Moreover, I was born on the same Nakshatra according to the lunar calendar with the eldest son, Vanamali, in Janmashtami. Neither Manorupa nor I have any particular astrological compatibility with Prabhu.
Soon, unexpectedly for myself, very naturally, I became a grateful listener to his beautiful memories of Manorupa.
And then his wife and assistant. Incredible! How was your role in Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu's mission determined?
My role in the mission of my husband was immediately determined. Our union made many doubters to take Krishna consciousness seriously. When Manorupa left, many acquaintances and friends were in confusion, they did not understand why “his God” took the most valuable person from their family and made His devotee suffer. But with my appearance everyone saw Prabhu's spiritual power again. His vibrant preaching life started flourish even more.
We were blessed by our Spiritual Masters, the Guru of ISKCON, the Queen of Malaysia, devotees, the large family of my husband and, most importantly, by his sons. Everyone trusted Prabhu's authority and impeccable reputation for many years.
The most amazing thing, that I started translating his consultations and soon his lectures. Even though I didn't know English well I always understood everything he said. It all started in Vilnius when the interpreter who was invited for us did not know the philosophy of the Vedas. And he understood everything in his own way. Since then by mutual desire, I became Prabhu’s voice in Russian-speaking countries.
“About her I want to make a video right away, even if I had to pay for this opportunity!” this was the answer from Amiya Sundari.
Your story is very unusual. Was the work on the film accompanied by any extraordinary situations? And in general, how did the idea of creating a film about Manorupa come to you?
I wanted to create a film presentation about my husband’s service as a gift for his birthday. I found the contact of Amia Sundari, a videographer from Ireland. I thanked her for her talents and asked if she could help me. She reviewed all the videos and photos on Facebook of my husband and was fascinated by the image of Manorupa. “I am sorry, I can’t see if I can make that video you asking me in short period of time, because I need more information, but about her I want to make a video right away, even if I had to pay for this opportunity!” this was the answer from Amiya Sundari. And I seemed to be waiting for this offer!
Amiya thought that it can be a beautiful 20-minute video, but independently of us, a whole film based on my story of the same name "Manorupa" began to appear.Each episode was immersive and deep. In the process of working on the film, new stories appeared all by themselves, and we called them “meditations”.
The entire family of Prahlad Narasimha Prabhu dedicated big part of their lives to the mission of Indradyumna Swami Maharaj namely to his project Viva Kultura in Poland. And this service is continued to this day by the eldest son, Vanamali, as a stage director and artistic director of the performances. The anthem of the Polish tour, Jahnavi Harrison's song “Life is Like a River” is used in the film. And we created a beautiful, mesmerizing meditative story about the eldest son, showing an example of the colossal commitment of all tour participants to the mission of their spiritual master. Amiya Sundari depicted Vanamali's heart subtly and beautifully.
The next day after the farewell ceremony for his mother he was already on the way back to Mumbai to play the main role on the stage in his own play, fulfilling the desire of his Ma.
The film was creating as a secret, was a surprise for next birthday of my husband. At the same night after finishing the part about Vanamali I had a dream: I was sitting on a sofa and I saw women moving in line in my direction. And suddenly I notice Manorupa among them with a garland in her hands. I immediately stood up to bow at her feet. She began to stop me: “No need to bow down!” Nearby I hear Prabhu's voice: “Do as she says”. She puts the garland on me and hugs me saying the following words: “Thank you so much! Thank you so much!”
Amazing.... How did the work on the film transform you personally?
By creating this film, my only desire was to share the glories of Krishna consciousness and to show my gratitude to the devotees and Srila Prabhupada.
It is a happiness for me to talk about Manorupa. She is my ideal. Therefore, when I hear that women are fighting for equality with men, I want to share an example of true feminine qualities that are so beautifully revealed in the image of Manorupa. It was my good fortune to use such a beautiful and truthful example to tell the devotees that happiness in Krishna consciousness is possible in our days. Whatever the relationship between husband and wife is, if a woman humbly fulfills her dharma, accepting her fate with gratitude, her sacrifice is rewarded by the Lord both in this life and in the next one.
If Krishna would give me the choice of which wife I wanted to be, the first or the second one, I would definitely choose the second, because there is nothing better for me than to glorify devotees. Being a wife of such a fulfilled preacher of our time, an endless horizon of possibilities opens up before me to help women be happy by sharing his profound experience of truly successful life in Krishna consciousness.
Tulasi Maharaní dasi,
Tiraspol Yatra ISKCON