Srila Giri Maharaja
“Srimati Divya Shakti’s Return to New Jersey”
For two weeks Srimati Divya Shakti Devi was engaged in, what can aptly be described as, a whirlwind fund raising tour of the West coast of the USA. From Portland, OR to Los Angeles, CA, and many points in between, she has been working tirelessly to raise funds for our future Math in Manhattan, New York, New York!
As this Math was born of the instruction of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and Srimati Divya Shakti Devi was one of the original group of servitors he sent to assist me with its development, I thought it fitting she be here with us for the celebration of his divine appearance festival.
She arrived after an extraordinarily long series of flights and delay. Flying all through the previous night, she arrived a little after eleven in the morning at the Philadelphia International Airport where we happily greeted her, and Lila Sundari Devi presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Arriving back at the Math a little after noon, I expected she would want to rest before taking part in the late afternoon program.
Instead, she was anxious to get started cooking and very soon the kitchen was filled with the sounds of movement as she began “re” organizing the space in preparation for her work. Soon afterwards I began to hear pots and pans being moved about, the oven door opening and closing, along with drawers and cabinets, as the Lord’s feast, in honor of Srila Guru Maharaja’s appearance, began to take shape.
I should have expected this behavior, as it is characteristic of her energetic nature to “spring into action” whenever there is a need for service. She may be sick or tired, she just can’t resist a service opportunity.
Originally joining our New York mission at its inception in 1987, she immediately began helping us by collecting funds for our first Math in Floral Park, Queens, NY.
Divya Shakti pictured here in the back, second from the left side.
Just prior to this, she had been engrossed in reading all the currently available books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, such as the Search for Sri Krishna and Sri Guru and His Grace. Reading them, she was immediately inspired to take initiation from His Divine Grace and came to me seeking his connection. As Srila Sridhara Maharaja had already delegated Srila Govinda Maharaja as the sole initiating Guru for Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, I acted as his rtvik and she was accepted by him as one of his earliest disciples in the New York area.
I had only recently arrived in New York from California and was living in a small RV trailer with a couple of brahmacaris. They were Prabhus Rohini Kumara and Devanatha, who had just taken initiation from Srila Govinda Maharaja in Navadwipa during the Gaura Purnima festival of ’87 and had been sent by Srila Sridhara Maharaja to help me establish his New York Math.
Sriman Devanatha Dasa receiving Hari Nama from Srila Govinda Maharaja.
Everyone was doing their best to collect the needed funds to secure a lease on a house suitable for our use. But, our efforts were not so fruitful, that is, until Divya Shakti devi, arrived on the scene and began collecting in earnest to support our fledgling Math. Then, within a very short time, we were able to get our start in a very nice rented house in Floral Park.
Divya Shakti wanted desperately to go to India to meet Srila Sridhara Maharaja. She went for the celebration of his appearance day in 1987. She got his darshan and received some direct instructions from him for her future service. She also received Gayatri Mantra from Srila Govinda Maharaja.
Unfortunately for us, she left, not long afterwards to pursue her aspirations elsewhere.
About 23 years have passed since then. She served our mission in various places in the ensuing years. During the last many years she was engaged directly by Srila Govinda Maharaja to collect for many projects dear to his heart.
Whenever possible, she followed Srila Govinda Maharaja on his World Tour visits to many countries around the world. She also spent a great deal of time in India, especially our Math in Sri Navadwipa Dhama. Sometimes she was attending to Srila Gurudeva’s personal needs, sometimes making arrangements to improve the care of the Deities, sometimes selling books from the book room, always serving the devotees, especially those visiting from outside India.
Srila Gurudeva had told her she could “retire” in Navadwipa and she was prepared to do that. Soon after his disappearance, however, she got another idea. She was not ready to retire. She thought, “I still have some good years of active service. I want to return to New York to see that Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s Math is established there.”
She very humbly approached me and asked if I would want her to come and help again with our New York Math. “Of course.” I told her “It had always been my hope that you would return. Previously Srila Sridhara Maharaja sent you to help me. Now I think Srila Govinda Maharaja is sending you.”
She arrived towards the end of June, this year. Since then she has hardly skipped a beat doing what I have found very difficult to do, raise funds for our New York City Math. She would not like me to mention her age, but it’s fair to say there is hardly anyone of any age that can keep up with her pace.
It is Srila Gurudeva’s blessing upon us that he has returned Srimati Divya Shakti Devi to us. Because she was previously collecting and working directly under the direction of Srila Gurudeva, I consider the money she is raising, as if it is coming from his own hand to be used for his work here. We will think that everything is coming by his grace, but in this case it seems even more obvious.
She has been extraordinarily helpful in countless ways. Aside from her fund raising talents, her hand can be seen throughout the Math. There have been many improvements attributable to her enthusiastic service.
We now have a very real prospect for a new beginning in New York City. Srila Gurudeva has given his blessings and expressed his desire many times to me for a Math in New York City.
With his continued blessings, the blessings of Srila Guru Maharaja and Srila Swami Maharaja, and the blessings of the devotees, we expect to celebrate the next Gaura Purnima, March 2011 at our new place in New York City. We know Srimati Divya Shakti Devi will be very instrumental in bringing that about.
Swami B.K. Giri