Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vishnujana Swami

(This site contains material from the former '' site - which was loving created and maintained by true devotees of Lord Krishna - I have endeavored to try and preserve this material).
Jagadisha das

Vishnujana Swami first joined the Hare Krishna Movement in 1967 in San Francisco, amid the 'Summer of Love.' His legand would become immortal. Vishnujana Swami's appearance on this planet is to directly assist Srila Prabhupada in distributing the transcendental sankirtan movement of Lord Chaitanya, and to forever inspire and enchant the heart of the devotees.
Within the sweet world of Krishna Consciousness, there are souls whose potency and charm attract our hearts, and we naturally want to serve them. Such is the nature of Vishnujana Swami. Remembering his life makes you think of Krishna, and how wonderful His devotees are. We naturally feel, “If I could just be one of them.”

He danced through the streets, chanting like a 'transcendental madman', personifying Sri Chaitanya’s sankirtan movement. Bringing form to Krishna bhakti, he enthusiastically helped Srila Prabhupada forever establish Krishna Consciousness in the world.

Thirty-two years ago, Vishnujana Swami mysteriously disappeared from our lives. Now, the transcendental radiance of his blissful personality again shines in this world, making its way into our hearts...

Srila Prabhupada has decided it is time to initiate his new disciple, who has been living at the Radha-Krishna Temple in San Francisco for a month. It would be at the dawn of Spring, on the morning of Easter Sunday, that Vishnujana das would appear in this world...

On returning to the temple from his morning walk around Stowe Lake, Srila Prabhupada enters the small storefronts double doors amid the excitement of the devotees, busily completing the final arrangements for the initiation cermony. Srila Prabhupada walks to the rear of the temple room and offers obeisances at the altar of Lord Jagannatha. He then walks to the cushioned seat which has been arranged before a raised mound of earth where the fire sacrifice will take place. Sitting in a meditative mood, Srila Prabhupada begins to play his kartalas, singing prayers to the maha-disciplic succesion of Lord Chaitanya.

After chanting, Srila Prabhupada gives a potent lecture about spiritual qualification. A nod from Srila Prabhupada, and the new initiate approaches him respectfully. After chanting on japa beads and reciting the regulations of initiation, Prabhupada hands the beads, saying, "Your name is Vishnujana dasa. 'Vishnujana' means 'one who serves the devotees of the Lord'. Hare Krishna."

Everyone in the temple cheers as the new Vaishnava accepts his beads and offers obeisances to his eternal spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada begins the fire sacrafice, formalizing the rites of initiation. As he continues ladling the ghee, the small flame quickly turns into a fiery blaze.

Photo Album

The Austin Drag
Just prior to the Christmas of 1970, a hippie street market scene has spontaneously manifested right in front of the University of Texas on Guadalupe Street, a broad roadway running along the edge of the campus. Many hippies begin to lay down blankets and sell their wares. The area soon becomes known as 'the Drag,' and a favorite haunt not only for hippies, but for the fifty thousand students on the campus across the road.

News of 'the Drag' soon reaches the devotees in Houston. Vishnujana is especially intrigued, "What's happening up there in Austin? Let's go check it out," he suggests. The next morning, Vishnujana announces his intentions to the assembled devotees. "I'm going to Austin. I want you all to stay here and maintain the temple." After breakfast prasadam Vishnujana loads the van with a few cases of BTGs and KRSNA books, and he and one other devotee drive off to Austin.

The first place Vishnujana wants to see when they arrive is 'the Drag.' And there it is right across the street from the campus, crowded with hippies and students. Immediately, Vishnujana recognizes that this is the ideal situation to plug into with his preaching. He has no mrdanga drum, no harmonium, no kartalas, nothing. He always travels very light, taking only his danda staff, a woolen blanket, a toothbrush, one change of cloth, and Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.

He lays down the blanket right across from 'Ron the bead man' and a hippie selling candles. Simply by playing a tambourine, with a skin on it, and chanting Hare Krishna, he begins to attract people right away. He displays the books and magazines along with a large poster of Srila Prabhupada. Between chanting he offers to cook a vegetarian feast at the home of anyone who would like to sample the unparalled taste of prasadam, food lovingly cooked and offered to the Supreme with devotion. It's not long before he gets his first invitation. Within a few hours, he has invitations for the next three days, as people invite him over, a different person every night...

At the
County Jail

San Antonio, TX - November 7, 1971
One day, Vishnujana recieves an unusual invitation. He is asked to give a special program for the inmates of the Bexar County Jail outside San Antonio. Enthused with the preaching opportunity, Vishnujana invites the whole temple congregation to accompany him. A carload of devotees also drive down from Austin. Everyone meets at the tiny temple apartment, and it becomes jam-packed with guests and devotees all eager to chant for the prisoners.

Vishnujana gets everybody into the mood with a warm-up kirtan in the apartment, and then takes the kirtan down to the street and onto the bus. Sitting on the bus and playing away on his harmonium like a madman, Vishnujana continues the intensity of the kirtan. As the bus maneuvers through the city streets, the kirtan continues unabated, with all totally overcome with bliss.

The prison guards have been notified that Vishnujana Swami will be coming to speak to the inmates about religious life. They are astonished to see the big red 'Bhakti-Yoga-Mobile' bus, packed with forty guests, accompanying Vishnujana with an uproarious kirtan in full swing.

After the procedural formalities are finished, the guards lead Vishnujana and his flock into a sedate chapel where a microphone is set up on a table. Vishnujana is briefed about the program, which will be broadcast like a radio show. Vishnujana will address the inmates from the chapel, and his talk will be heard in every cell in the institution via the intercom system. Vishnujana sits down in front of the microphone and begins his talk.

Adi Deva das: The prisoners were a captive audience. Vishnujana gave an incredible lecture. "You think you're in cells. You think you have walls with bars, but we all have bars. Our bars are our senses. You're actaully in the jail of your body..." He talked about love, and the love of a tiger for its cub. He talked about different types of love; that love is within everybody's heart no matter where on the scale you are. Even if you're a convict and everybody else hated you and they were going to throw you in solitary confinement forever, there is still love in your heart... "And Krishna is the Supreme Lover. And maybe when you get out of here, you might want to visit a church. Well, we don't visit a church, we live the church, you see. We are the church. So when you get out of here , you come and see us." And boy I mean they came! For months afterward the first thing the convicts would do is look up the Hare Krishnas. It was great... Then he led this killer kirtan. He didn't have a mrdanga at the time, but somebody had gotten a tom-tom. I remember him playing the tom-tom and then switching to the harmonium. Thay had an organ in the chapel also, and I remember he was playing around with that also... At one point I went downstairs and out the jail, just to see if you could hear it. Every speaker in the jail was turned up full blast. You could hear the kirtan out in the street. The prison authorities loved it, and so did the prisoners. They wanted the inmates to read Bhagavad-gita, and they were asking for it.

Sankarsana das: Vishnujan gave a lecture, and it was the sweetest program you could imagine. He sang a melody I never heard before, but I fell in love with it immediately. I was watching him play the harmonium, and to me it was like poetry in motion, the way he would cross his fingers. I would just be mystified to see the way his hand moved on the keyboard.

Murti das: They had to broadcast his voice to four floors of the jail. He was on the bottom floor with his harmonium, singing away, and the whole jail went wild. Suddenly, here is this saint who's come in talking in his hoarse voice and just loving them, saying that it's okay, and just sing along. They went wild, shaking their cell doors and screaming. The whole jail was starting to go crazy, and the guards got a little freaked out. Vishnujana had tremendous potency.

Memories of Vishnujana Swami
Yumuna dasi:
From the day that he came to the temple, he loved it, he immediately became attracted to Krishna Consciousness. Within three days he was totally into it. Some people come and just see Krishna is where they're meant to be. There are devotees I've known through the ages, that when they walk through the door they are picking up where they left off in a previous life. They're just at home. In the case of Vishnujana, it was very clear within a few days of his arrival that this was where he had to be for the rest of his life... All of us led kirtan, and Vishnujana's were relishable. For several months we chanted together, and I can just remember his stamina. He had really intense stamina for drumming for many hours.

Guru das:
I was impressed with Vishnujana's sincerity. He really loved kirtan and displayed musical feelings that were the early signs of devotion. His personality was open and compassionate, and he saw what was going on through other people's eyes as well. He was a giving person.

Saradiya dasi:
I only have very fond positive memories about Vishnujana. He was always a gentleman. As far as I knew him he was always very kind and considerate. I was at the San Francisco temple when he joined. It was interesting because he was always very enthusiastic and always wanted to do some service.

Puskar das:
The first time I saw Vishnujana he was giving a Sunday lecture on Fredrick Street. He was wearing a plaid shirt that was tucked into his dhoti. He gave an interesting talk. At one point he said, "I was coming to the temple regularly and then I realized I'm living among saints." That stuck in my mind that there could be saints living now. I thought, "That's far-out, he's living with saints."

Madhudvisa das: His voice was so captivating. Vishnujana would chant for hours and hours and hours. The way he would chant, I used to think I want to be like that devotee. I want to be able to chant like him someday. He was always very kind and warm. That was his thing. He would make you feel at ease. He'd make you feel a friend. He would brake down all these barriers. There was no pretension when he would speak... Vishnujana was so intoxicated with kirtan. He would go out all day long having kirtan, come back to the temple, and start chanting bhajans for the Deities. Then he would lead the arati ceremony. He just kept going and going. He was genuinely intoxicated with the Holy Name.

Dayananda das: At first, Vishnujana was a very tall, young looking, skinny boy. But then he used to stand on the streets of LA and play the mrdanga drum 6-8 hours a day, day after day, and come back and eat huge quantities of prasadam.He used to eat a tremendous amount, and then all day long play the mrdanga. So he grew muscular and big, and looked healthy... Vishnujana was able to communicate in a very personal way. He would be playing the mrdanga, and then he would just smile like anything and look you straight in the eyes. It was the most incredible communication you would get from him with his kirtan. He would do that with everyone and get you really involved in the kirtan, really feeling the experience.

Kausalya dasi: If it wasn't for Vishnujana, I probably would have refused to go out on street sankirtan. He always made it fun. We would lay out a big oriental rug on Hollywood Boulevard, and he would let me sit there and play the tamboura and sing. We all would dance in step and burn incense. Vishnujana choreographed the whole thing... He was a wonderful, warm being, a really sweet person, very deep, very cosmic, as well as a lot of fun and full of life. He came in a room, and just lit it up.

Jambavati dasi: We used to go out on sankirtan to Hollywood Boulevard with Vishnujana leading, and he would chant from 8:30 PM to 1:00 in the morning. He was so blissed out. He lent energy to other devotees.

Sahadevi dasi:
I did the puppet shows with him. That was the best thing about Vishnujana for me, because he was a person who really allowed his creativity to be used in Krishna's service. He had so much heart. When he played Krishna it was sweet, and when he would sing it was sweet... Vishnujana was just so joyful, he inspired everyone around him. He had a certain intensity when he was chanting that was very protective.

Mohanananda das: You couldn't help notice that Vishnujana was absolutely filled with love of God. From the moment you saw him, it was as if an angel had appeared.

Nanda Kumar das: He was real good with kids. I remember the puppet shows. He had a certain voice, a certian inflection, and I can still hear his voice, full of animation. I mean he would become the part, and it captivated everyone, kids and adults, because he had that childlike innocence himself. That was what made him so beautiful.

Gauradasa Pandit das:
As I turned to look at him I noticed what an aura was. He was very bright-faced. I had never offered obeisances before and here was a swami offering obeisances to me! Talk about humility... He did bhajans until midnight at the temple. Every time he stopped the devotees begged him to chant some more... Everything he touched turned to gold. His chanting, his speaking, his cooking and his Deity worship were full of devotion so much so that he inspired all who were fortunate enough to come into contact with him.

Gunamayi dasi: The way that Vishnujana impressed me was that he had some kind of mystical potency to his chanting. It was just different, and you can't describe it. He had like a heavenly type voice. It wasn't anything he learned from anybody. It was just him.

Narada Muni dasa:
Vishnujana was the spiritual soul of La Cienga Temple- the life of the party. He was the standard that everyone tried to come up to. He loved telling stories and doing puppet shows on Sundays for the children.

Mahatama das: When I first met him, I already knew that I had to become a devotee. Meeting someone like him just made it that much more easy and attractive. He had a strong attraction for chanting, especially how it attracted other people. It almost mesmerized them. His attraction was completely spiritual. He was on a different platform. Just by his presence people would want to join Krishna Consciousness.

Bhakta das: He was always filled with love. Everyone had that impression. He didn't really have any thought for himself. His thought was always of service and doing good for others. You felt very protected when you were with him.

Rsabhadeva das: I slept right next to him. He said that he liked to be awakened in the morning by someone touching his shoulder and immediately chanting sri-krsna-chaitanya prabhu nityananda . . . So I had that duty. I would wake up and touch him on the shoulder and chant the mantra. He would wake up smiling. Just like a cloud of fog lifts from the earth, he would just lift up, "Aahh, another day."

Jayatirtha das:
Vishnujana's singing was on a different plane. His chanting resonated on a higher vibration. His kirtans brought you to another realm, like Prabhupada's chanting. Vishnujana also had a gift of using the sound vibration to open the heart chakra.

Riktananda das: More than anything, the Sunday Love Feast was a phenomenom where Vishnujana seemed to expand himself into multiples - leading the chanting, giving the lecture, devising and conducting a puppet show for the children (and adults,) and making sure the devotees circulated among the guests.

Damodara das: I remember his charisma and personal magnetism. Incredible. Everybody looked up to him... I remember putting washers on his fingers and wrapping adhesive tape around them so that he could play the mrdanga for five hours straight without his hands bleeding. His determination and energy were incredible.

Visala das: Vishnujana was a remarkable person. He looked like a demigod. His lectures were very intelligent and inspired everyone. Love always emanated from him, and everyone felt happy to have his association.

Manmohini dasi: I could hear Vishnujana singing, and I was in ecstacy. It was so transcendental. I didn't feel any ego involved. It wasn't like he was concentrating on what a great musician he was, but he was really crying out to Krishna. Every single syllable of the mantra was transcendental and so melodic. It was mystical. Everything he did just pierced the material elements. He was just yearning for love of God.

Yasodanandana das: What personally impressed me about Vishnujana was he always had such eagerness, like an uncontrollable urge, to chant the Holy Name. And his demeanor, his attitude, his preaching was so sweet. He wanted to bring so many people back to Prabhupada, back to the temple, back to our movement.

Ananga Manjari dasi: At the end of a kirtan, all of a sudden an old lady came ruuning up and embraced him, saying, "You're so beautiful. I love this. I love it." She was actually feeling symptoms of ecstasy from the Holy Name. He was very gentlemanly with her. I was very impressed how he handled it. He didn't push her away, but was very kind and nice. He started preaching to her and made sure she got a book and some prasadam.

Narayani dasi: He was so lively and such a great musician. When he would speak between chanting, you would feel so inspired because he really cared about people he was speaking to, and he really wanted in his heart to make them devotees. He just wanted them to advance in spiritual life.

Bhagavat das: When I first saw Vishnujana, I was very affected because I could realize he was an exalted devotee. You got the impression that he was very spiritually advanced; that he was really understanding and tasting Krishna Consciouness and the Holy Name. His expression showed that he was deep in meditation, and you could feel that he was actually associating with Krishna through his chanting.

Daivisakti dasi: The looks of ecstasy that Vishnujana Sawmi had on those sankirtans cannot be described. It looked exactly what mahabhava must look like when someone is experiencing that.

Lambhodara das: Vishnujana had shakti, he had power. He had an expression of emotion and love that was inspiring. His face was bright; his glow was vivid, and he would just open up and pour his heart out.

Indradyumna Swami: Vishnujana was singing like an angel. I just stood there in amazement watching Vishnujana lead this ecstatic kirtan.

Kripamayi dasi:
Vishnujana was definitely most articulate. When he would speak, he was so charismatic, and so in love with Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. He just transported you to wherever he was speaking about.

Dhanistha dasi:
A saintly gentle young man with a heart of gold and a great love for chanting the Holy Names during kirtan and his soulful bhajans. Everyone liked to be near him.

Vishnujana Swami Kirtans