Sep 152020

Today we celebrate the auspicious occasion of the 85th birthday of our dear Rose Forkash.

When Srila Prabhupada first arrived in America, it took some time—almost a year—before people began to take his message seriously. But gradually, after he moved to New York, some young men and women did join him. And after starting the first center, on Second Avenue, Srila Prabhupada sent some disciples to San Francisco. Soon thereafter, he went, too, and it was there that he inspired and celebrated the first Ratha-yatra in the Western world. Before leaving America to return to India, Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, “Whoever wants to please me”—of course, everyone wanted to please Srila Prabhupada—“should open a center.” So one young couple, Dayananda and his wife Nandarani, took up the call and went to Los Angeles and began the center there.

Eventually, some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples came to Santa Barbara, and one young person to get a copy of Back to Godhead was Linda Forkash. She brought the magazine home and read every page, and she told her mother, “Mom, this is it—this is what I have been looking for! This magazine is answering all of my questions about God.” Soon she decided to move into the Los Angeles temple in order to practice bhakti-yoga in the association of devotees, to realize her goal of developing love for God—Krishna consciousness.

Linda’s mother, Rose, being conscientious and loving as she is, soon followed her to Los Angeles—just to make sure everything was on the up-and-up. She got hold of Karandhara das, who was in charge of the activities there, and told him, “If I find out that there are any drugs going on here . . .” She did not know that the devotees did not take even tea and coffee and cigarettes; she just wanted to make sure that her daughter was in proper company.

In a room conversation in Bhubaneswar, January 20, 1977, Ramesvara told Srila Prabhupada, “We have one mother in Los Angeles of a girl named Lilashakti. She’s a big book distributor. And her mother, she loves this movement so much that when the deprogrammers start debating us, she stands up and yells at them that ‘My daughter was on drugs, hippie, before she came to this movement. This movement has saved her. If I had known about this movement when I was a young girl, I would have joined this movement!’ On television she’s speaking like that, very strongly: ‘You have no right to criticize! You don’t know anything about this movement.’ . . .  She says, ‘You just come over to my house for lunch and I’ll tell you all about this movement, how nice it is.’ She started this club, Parents for Krishna.” And Prabhupada replied, “Oh, she is very sincere. And her daughter, this Lilashakti. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s expert in everything.”

Now I would like to hear from some of the other devotees here, how they came in touch with Krishna consciousness and how they came to know Rose. I think of her as Aunt Rose. We have a saying in Chicago: “Everyone has an uncle (or aunt) in Skokie.” Rose actually lived in Skokie before she moved to Santa Barbara. So she definitely qualifies to be Aunt Rose—for many reasons. So, now I will call on Linda, or Lilashakti, to carry on the thread of the story.

Lilashakti dasi: As you were speaking about how we would go out and chant and distribute Back to Godheads, I was thinking of how many devotees in this room actually connected with Krishna through seeing the devotees on harinama and maybe getting a Back to Godhead. It was very powerful to see the devotees, and I remember chanting with them. The first couple of times, I would just stand there and observe, and then they would call me to join them and chant. I finally did, and I remember chanting on harinama with them and watching the people go by. It was as if I was immersed in and surrounded by the transcendental sound vibration, and what I was experiencing was totally different from the people walking by. The experience of the transcendental sound vibration was so powerful. Then, of course, reading the Back to Godhead. When I went home, it just solidified the experience. “Oh, so this is who God is. All right. Now someone is finally telling me.” As Maharaja said, it took me only a couple of weeks and I was saying goodbye to my mum and dad at the door. They stood in shock as a brahmachari with a shaved head pulled up in a little Volkswagen to drive me to Los Angeles.

I could not stay in the small temple that was in Santa Barbara then. There were five brahmacharis there, and they did not have a brahmacharini ashram. But then, as Maharaja said, it was not long—probably the very next Sunday feast—before my mother and father came and observed. Experiencing the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and honoring prasada just hooked them. You just cannot escape it. It is the mercy of this day and age that even if you are not conscious of what you are hearing or what you are eating, you will become purified and attracted to Krishna. It is just magical. It works. And it worked with my mother and father, because then we could not keep them away. They just kept coming every week, and before you knew it, they were doing service. And before you knew it, the temple gave them an apartment at Watseka and they started a whole program: “Friends of Lord Krishna,” FOLK.

I will let mum go on and talk about her experience, but I feel really blessed. Especially in those days, there were not a lot of mothers and fathers coming to support their children in what they were doing. But my mum and dad were so supportive and loving, and my own children benefited from having not only a mother that was Krishna conscious but grandparents that were Krishna conscious, who were at the temple and sharing our life with us. So, we had not only the extended family of devotees, but we actually had our blood relatives. And then friends like Ann would come to the temple, and my aunts would come to the temple, and they were quite open. It was really amazing that my family members were as open as they were.

Rose: And your brothers.

Lilashakti dasi: And my brothers. Oh, yes, you should have seen my mother and father at my fire yajna for my first, arranged, marriage. That was very interesting. My uncle was there, and my brothers were there. This was in Arizona. I had an arranged marriage with Madhukara, and he is Das’s father—Manasa Chandra Das. I had never met him before. Karandhara had told me, “Prabhupada wants all the women to be married.” As Maharaja said, we just wanted to please Prabhupada. If Prabhupada wanted us to jump off a mountain, we probably would have done it. So I went and met Madhukara. We had a fire yajna, and my mother and father came. I have pictures of them sitting around it. I do not know what they must have thought. What did you think, Rose?

Rose: It was pretty hard to think. It was overwhelming. Mostly I looked around and saw that there were very few older people. It was mostly younger people, and I wondered, “Where are people my age?” But I have to jump ahead, because the first person who came to visit Los Angeles to visit Lila was this lady right here, and I took her to the temple and she observed. As I recall, she took her shoes off and kneeled at the temple door, not knowing what was going on inside. But she observed and did everything that everybody else was doing, including chanting.

Ann Gottfried: I did not know.

Rose: Because she had so much faith in me, I think, that if it was good for me it was good for her. But I have to jump ahead. There was a little woman who would come to visit her son. She was so very, very kind. That was Ratnabhusana’s mother, who came to visit him. She was very devoted, very kind, and willing to do anything that the devotees wanted. I will never forget his mother. And so it went. It did not take long.

I went to visit my family in Florida, and there was a temple there. In the western part of Miami there was a temple, and I brought all my family, and all my family got into it. Then one day my mother and father decided, “Well, if it is good enough for Lila and Rose, why can’t we stay there?” I said, “No, Dad, you can’t have that cigar there.” “Maybe they will let me have one!” And I said, “No, they can’t.” But anyway, he conceded to that—that he would have only one cigar a day. The devotees were going to make a move to the oceanside at that time, and they were selling the property. So my mother and dad did not move to the temple. But it would have been interesting. Nonetheless, when my mother was ready to pass away, devotees surrounded her and chanted with her until her last day, for which I am grateful.

But this lady right here [Ann Gottfried] spoke to anybody and everybody in Chicago on behalf of Krishna. She was a true, true friend and thought that if it was good for us, it would have to be good for everybody else.

Ann: I did that mostly for you.

Lilashakti dasi: My Aunt Ann.

Rose: So, we come to this time, and I do not know where we go from here except maybe to another body. I have to interrupt only for one very important thing. When I began to write to the parents all over the world, I had a very good friend who helped: Kaumudaki dasi. She was very instrumental in helping. I don’t think I could have done it myself.

Giriraj Swami: Can you explain a little more how you came to start FOLK?

Rose: What led me to it? That fact, that I noticed so few parents coming to the temple. Very few came to the Sunday program. A few neighborly people came at that time, I think because of the prasada, but very few parents. I think Ratnabhusana’s mother was one of the few who would come.

So, I spoke with Ramesvara Swami about that one afternoon. I said, “There must be a way to bring other families around to see for themselves what their children are doing.” I asked him if it would be all right if I had the names and addresses of all those in the Los Angeles temple. Not knowing where San Francisco was as opposed to Santa Barbara, I had no conception of distance at that time. I invited every family that lived in California. We arranged a luncheon. And they came. I stood at the temple door, waiting for every car that would pull up. I felt so grateful when I saw fifty people finally filling the room. I stood at the door and greeted everybody, but, of course, everybody was very uncomfortable at the beginning.

I stood before the room full of parents and wondered what I could say to them. I thanked everybody for coming, and then suddenly I just began to cry. That was the beginning. But I recovered enough, and I tried my best to explain what their children were doing and why they were doing what they were doing and that I had hope that if they, the parents, were able to read some of the material, perhaps their differences would be smoothened. And so it went.

From that I wrote to other families. Then Sam decided that we should take a trip to all the temples. We had a camper van, and so we travelled throughout the United States and stopped at fifteen temples where I had the names and addresses of the families. I also got the names and addresses of families that lived in other countries. The list grew and grew and grew until we might have had about three or four thousand letters going out. I think that is what it came to—many thousands of letters.

Where do we go from here? I think this is about the beginning of the end . . .

Devotee: Or the end of the beginning.

Rose: That is right. I must add that this year Sam and I attended a beautiful wedding on the grounds here about five days before Sam left his body. We were sitting together. At the end of the ceremony Sam took my hand, and he said, “Would you like to marry me again?” “Yes, I would.” It never came to pass, but the intention was good and it was there. Thank you for letting me say this.

I am very fortunate that from Lila we have two very fine grandsons. My sons are very supportive and have made many, many donations in honor of Prabhupada. So, this is where I am today, at the age of eighty-five—a big number—surrounded by very good friends. I am very, very happy for this arrangement here today. I thank everybody for coming.

Ratnabhusana dasa: I would like to mention that my brother and I became devotees through Back to Godhead magazine. We had a friend whose father owned a gas station. It was in Bismarck, North Dakota. We had never heard of devotees, what to speak of seen any. But some devotees were passing through, and instead of paying for the gas they asked if we could take a Krsna book and a Back to Godhead magazine. So my brother came home with that. He said, “These guys were here. They had the robes, the ponytail—the whole thing.”

My brother was interested in the book mainly for the art, but he started writing. There was a line in the magazine: “For more information write to 3764 Watseka Avenue.” So he started getting letters from Swarup. My brother joined the temple first, and then I came in 1977. My brother was very ill then. He had diabetes and kidney failure, so he was in the hospital. When he got out, my mother came out to visit us in the temple in Los Angeles. Rose had an apartment right behind the temple, on the next block, and my mother stayed with Rose. That is how we came to know Rose and Sam. Later, my mother started staying with Kaumudaki too, sometimes in the brahmacharini ashram.

Rose has been like my aunt, and Sam—they just have been such good friends all these years. I have never seen Sam angry. He was just always very cheerful and happy to come down and take prasada. And from the story you were telling about Rose’s coming and warning Karandhara, I have to steal something that Jagadambika told me. We have a card from all the devotees in Los Angeles, and her husband wrote that Rose has been like a mother to the whole Los Angeles temple.

Rose: Many others came.

Giriraj Swami: You extended yourselves. It was not just that they came; you extended yourselves. When you say that Rose and Sam had an apartment, were they staying there full-time or was it an apartment allocated for the FOLK program?

Lilashakti dasi: Part of it had to do with Ramesvara’s mercy. Ramesvara was incredibly merciful to me and to my family. Before he was a swami, he was the head of the sankirtana department at New Dvaraka, Los Angeles. So I worked under his guidance for years and years, distributing books. He carried Prabhupada’s desire to spread Krishna consciousness through book distribution in his heart, more than anybody I had known. Because I was blessed as a salesperson—I just have this adept nature that I can sell anything I believe in, and I believed in Krishna consciousness—I became a book distributor. Because of that, Ramesvara showed me such incredible mercy and extended that to my mother and father and supported the Forkash family incredibly. When I became pregnant with Manasa Chandra and had a baby, it was difficult for me to juggle having a young child and going on sankirtana. So he gave me a car, just to facilitate me going. He made accommodations like that. And to support and accommodate my parents, he gave them an apartment on Watseka to do their service. It was a lot of his mercy. It was Krishna’s mercy and Prabhupada’s mercy through Srila Ramesvara that did this.

Our family is very indebted to him. He gave us so much support and so much facility. I think a lot of why things happened the way they did was that. He would do anything for us. And when I took my son out of the gurukula, he did not have any problem in going up to my mother and saying, “Your daughter is crazy. What is she doing?” But I felt uncomfortable leaving my son in a boarding school, away from me. I wanted to bring him home. I agreed to bring him to mangala-arati, but I wanted to make sure that he was getting enough rest and that he was in his mother’s nurturing arms. I think I was the first one to do that in New Dvaraka. So at that time I was considered crazy, but not too long after that, many mothers followed in my footsteps. And today they are glad they did.

Kaumudaki dasi: I first met devotees, came in contact with Krishna consciousness, in 1970. Actually, in the late ’60s I had gone down to Boston to visit some friends. I am from Canada. The first time I saw devotees was on the Boston Commons. I took the bus down from Ottawa in about 1968, and my friends picked me up. We were walking across the Boston Commons, and I saw five devotees—all young Americans: three young men and two young women—and they were wearing these robes and playing karatalas and chanting Hare Krishna. We just stopped. This was the late ’60s, and I had already dropped out of college and tried LSD a couple of times, and I had gotten a little horrified at the drug scene. I was a strict vegetarian because my friends were Buddhists, and when hippies started wearing buckskin I thought, “That is just not my thing.” They had to kill those animals and all that.

Then I thought that maybe traveling would give me some enlightenment. So I worked and saved up my money. I went to Europe and hitchhiked all around. After a while, I got tired of that, so I borrowed money from my father and came back and had to work to pay him back. Then I went to visit friends in Ottawa, where I had gone to university, and I got invited for the summer to Boston, and there were the devotees. The late ’60s were a real cultural mix. I was just in awe. My friend and her husband and I were standing there in the Boston Commons, and devotees seemed to glide, or float, by, and we just listened to them as they came right past us and went off in the distance. I just wanted to follow them, and I said to my friends, “Who are they?” They said, “Oh, those are the Hare Krishnas. They are really nice people, and they have a Sunday feast.” I thought, “Wow.” That was about 1968.

So, I visited for the summer and then went back, but I didn’t see the devotees again. Back up in Canada I met an American who was against the Vietnam War, and we started living together. We went to Montreal for a weekend, and there we saw them. The only money I had on me was a quarter in my short shorts. I walked up to the sankirtana guys, and I gave them my quarter. My husband said, “Come on; we’re in a hurry.” Sripati was the head of that sankirtana party. That was 1969.

We hitchhiked to the West Coast and lived in Vancouver for the winter of 1969. In 1970 we went up to Vancouver Island, because my husband wanted to see what it was like being out in the woods, and there in February I got this beautiful booklet. It was on our friends’ coffee table. My husband was in the kitchen playing guitar and making music with his friends. I was sitting there, and I looked at this beautiful booklet, and it read “Krishna, The Reservoir of Pleasure.” It was printed in Boston in 1970, so they had had only one month to print it and get it up there, but they did. I still have that original booklet. I loved the picture on the front. I thought, “Who is that beautiful child, and where is that beautiful place?”

Then I looked at the inside. I could not understand the articles, because Prabhupada started, “Krishna is a transcendental sound vibration.” So I did not think He was a person. I did not get it. I looked through, and I looked at the pictures. As soon as I saw the picture of Srila Prabhupada I knew he was my spiritual master. We had been reading Bhagavad-gita, but it was not Prabhupada’s Gita. I had had Buddhist friends, so I knew a little bit about Buddhist meditation and values, which I appreciated. I had also read a little bit about Vivekananda, because my physics teacher in high school was a Hindu from India, but I was never really attracted to any of it. I knew there were spiritual teachers out there, but I knew they were not my spiritual teacher. When we were in Vancouver, before we went up to Vancouver Island, I had seen a picture of Paramahamsa Yogananda in the newspaper, and we had been thinking of going to his place, but when I looked at his picture I thought, “Well, you are a spiritual master, but you are not my spiritual master.” For some reason, in my heart I just knew. But now in this booklet there was a beautiful picture of Srila Prabhupada sitting in an orange turtleneck under a tree at New Vrindaban, and I just knew, “He is my spiritual master.” It felt like a big kick in the heart.

But we were living on the north end of Vancouver Island, and there was nothing I could do about it, though I did keep the booklet. That was February of 1970. Then all summer these friends of ours who lived in Ballacolla kept writing to us, “We are chanting Hare Krishna. We have a blooped devotee here named Sri Ranga”—I think that was his name. I never met anybody who knew him, but he was an initiated devotee. So he taught them all to chant, and they had an altar. They were offering all their food. They were living way up in the woods. Then they moved to the south end of Vancouver Island, and they came up and visited us. They said, “You’ve got to come and see what this is all about.” They were trying to preach to us from Bhagavad-gita, and we said, “That is not what Bhagavad-gita says. We have read the Bhagavad-gita.” So they said, “Well, then just try the chanting and come and read the book.” So, we went down there at Christmas time, and I spent three days just reading Caitanya-caritamrta. I thought, “This is theoretically perfect. This answers all my questions.” My husband also felt the same way. And the devotees were very nice. There were Bahudaka and Rocana and some other devotees, and so we moved in.

We ended up in Vancouver and Seattle. That is the first place where I met Ramesvara. It was near the beginning of the year, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s festival, and all these brahmacharis came up from Portland. Up until that time, I had been around only householders. I did not know anything about saffron and all that stuff. We were standing in the back of the temple, kind of backed up in the back of the temple room. And there were like fifteen brahmacharis about a foot off the floor, having this truly passionate kirtan. The altar reminded me of Seattle at that time, beginning of 1971, with Jagannatha deities and then below them Gaura-Nitai and the pictures. It was all with one curtain on the wall—a very simple temple. It was just a house that was made into a temple.

Then we went back to Vancouver, and my husband wanted to work on the press. So we went to New York, where the press had moved from Boston. And then, to make a long story short, at the beginning of 1973, due to my husband’s wishes, we ended up in Los Angeles. That is where I met Lilashakti dasi, because she had to have a really quiet place to sleep. Remember that? The place they gave her to sleep was this little room in the back of the old temple room—actually the back of the Sanctuary, which is now the Los Angeles temple room. The temple room then was where the museum is now. So, what is the temple room now used to be called the Sanctuary, and up ahead was the stage, where the altar is now. We had these wonderful Sunday programs, but we had to go to bed a bit late on Sunday, because there was gulabjamun juice and stuff all over the little room where we stayed. Anyway, I was given that little room to share with her, and that is how I met her. That was in May of 1973. That was a wonderful year—Prabhupada was there so much of that year.

My first engagement was helping to cook in the kitchen and helping Manjuali cook. Jayatirtha was in charge of Spiritual Sky, Manjuali was the head pujari, and Karandhara was the GBC. So, the whole evening I was cooking, offering, and bringing in the maha to the sankirtana room. When I first got to Los Angeles, my husband said, “You have got to see this. You’ve got to just feel the energy in the sankirtana room.” He was a photographer, and he had been taking pictures of the sankirtana devotees. So he brought me in, and it was just so joyful. It was just overflowing with Lord Chaitanya’s mercy. . . . There was nothing like those sankirtana days in the early ’70s. It was just incredible.

So, I would cook the bhoga and make the offering and then take the maha in after arati, take it into the sankirtana room, and make all these little cups for the sankirtana devotees. The different offerings went to different devotees in different departments. Well, I just lucked out, and I got this one. So I would see Lilashakti dasi, and I used to think, “She looks like Natalie Wood.” She used to wear these really beautiful long dresses and go out and distribute books all the time.

Lilashakti dasi: We were going undercover to the airport.

Kaumudaki dasi: Tripurari worked at the airport, and first he kept it secret, but gradually everybody else wanted to go too. So they had to wear these Western clothes, because we were not yet legal there. I was getting more and more in awe of these devotees—Lilashakti, Lavanga-latika, Tripurari, Ganga Narayana, Vrndavana-vilasini—so many dedicated devotees. It was really wonderful. Finally, after hearing the nectar about book distribution every night for so long . . . I used to go on harinama once a week. That was my sankirtana—every Friday or Saturday night, once a week I would go on harinama. But I thought, “Gee, I am really shy of the public, but I have to try this.” So I went to Karandhara and asked him if I could try. For three weeks I tried book distribution. I would do maybe one pamphlet a day. I have a real hard time talking in public to a large number of people or to strangers on the street. It’s karma from a past life or something. I just can’t do it; I have barely been able to overcome it.

After three weeks, I was unable to continue, and somebody asked me to be Karandhara’s secretary, because his current secretary was getting married. The front office, where I was working, was connected to the sankirtana room, and Ramesvara used to come from the BBT. Where the pujari rooms are now is where the book storage was then. Karandhara was the BBT trustee, and he used to write up all the orders and give them to Ramesvara. He had brought Ramesvara down from Portland to help him with the BBT. Ramesvara used to fill all the orders. He would call the trucking company, and the trucks would pull up in the alley, and he would load all these boxes of books onto the trucks.

Ramesvara used to come back at night, and I was in awe of him because he gave such great classes—he and Tripurari—their classes were just full of nectar about preaching. And everybody was a spiritual soul then; there was no criticism of the nondevotees—just opening the treasure house of love of God and the marketplace of the holy name. It was overflowing in everybody’s heart. So, Ramesvara used to come back once a month with the newsletter that he sent out to all the temples, and he used to leave them on the counter and say, “Send them out” and would walk into the sankirtana room. I used {to} think, “Huh! That is not my job. Who is he to tell me what to do?” He wasn’t my authority, but then I started to think about his classes and figured, “Well . . . maybe I should.” Plus, I didn’t want to displease Karandhara. So I put all the postage on and sent them.

Then, unfortunately, for personal reasons, Karandhara left, and then Jayatirtha was put in charge. Then I was Jayatirtha’s secretary, but still right there by the sankirtana office. After a year, Jayatirtha got transferred to England. All of this was in 1975. In the beginning of 1975 Gopavrndapala came and asked me to be Ramesvara’s secretary, as he had too much to do, because Karandhara had left, Jayatirtha had gotten transferred to England, and Tripurari had started the BBT traveling party. So Ramesvara was doing all kinds of work, and he really needed a secretary. The first year he had this really beautiful blonde secretary, so I think part of the reason they asked me to be his secretary was that I wasn’t quite as attractive as she was. She was a real dish! And she was single, and he was a brahmachari.

The first day I reported for work, Ramesvara had a screen between us, and he said, “This half of the room is yours; this half of the room is mine.” As he could see that I could do the work, he just kept giving me work, more and more and more work—first invoices and then letters and journal keeping. That way he had more time to preach and be in touch with the devotees all the time and concentrate on all the organizing he was doing.

I met Rose because she was coming to visit Lila. Rose actually should speak about her meeting with Prabhupada. I never had a personal talk with Prabhupada, but Rose did. Anyway, Ramesvara told me, “Rose is going to do this newsletter to help parents understand what their kids are doing. Maybe we can break some of the ice between the devotees and their parents. She needs somebody to help her with the newsletter, with typing and if she has any philosophical questions. If there are any problems, come to me.” He gave Rose and Sam this little apartment down the street, and I used to go there periodically and help type and answer questions. The parents would write in and ask some questions, so Rose and I would discuss what the best way would be to answer them. We had these little cards and a mimeograph machine for doing the envelopes. We did not have computers; it was all typewriters. So, we gradually kept sending out more and more and more.

It was a very healing process for a lot of devotees to be able to bridge the gap, and I personally was very fortunate that my parents were . . . my father always believed that you should follow the religion you are born into. He was not really crazy about me taking up any other, Eastern religion, but he was tolerant, and he always helped me out whenever I needed it. And my mother was very appreciative. She really thought that it was very devotional, and they even brought my grandmother to visit the temple. My younger sister even lived in the Vancouver temple for a while, but she could not take getting up at four in the morning. Still, she stayed for quite a while. My other sister came to visit me and made garlands for the Deities, and she liked the prasada and everything. And my parents came to visit in the ’80s, and we took a little tour to the different temples—Laguna Beach, San Diego. And then we drove from Los Angeles up to Santa Barbara, to Carpinteria, and that was one of the most joyful memories of their whole visit—to stay with Rose and Sam. We all had a meal together.

Later on, when my father came down to visit at the end of 2002, I drove them up to Rose and Sam’s. My parents had become very attached to Rose and Sam; they considered them to be real friends. And when Rose and Sam went on their trip, they met my grandmother in Vancouver and had planned to meet my parents too, but they had to cut their trip short. So my father really wanted us all to go to Santa Barbara. He showed us the place where mum and he had stayed when they had come down to visit. It was just one of their best encounters possible, because we did not have role models. We did not have an older generation, and so Rose—maybe there were other favorable parents in other places—but especially Rose, she was such a leader. She and Sam were so supportive that they were like our older generation. There were about three people over thirty in the temple for like ten years. So, I am very grateful that Krishna brought me in contact with Rose and Sam. I think our association is eternal. Hare Krishna.

Bhumi dasi: I’m from New York City. The devotees conquered Manhattan in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was always traipsing around town, running into them. I was not always favorable. I remember a couple of times thinking, “This is what you do when you have nothing else going for you.” And I think in a way I was right, because it seems to me that in my life . . . my attraction to Krishna consciousness was not so much an attraction to Krishna, an attraction to Prabhupada, but based more on a realization that this material world is miserable. I had grown up in the hippie era, and they always talked about free love and drugs, sex and rock and roll and all of that, and enjoyment, but I was not enjoying. I was miserable and did not understand why, and I was very frustrated. When I was thinking, “This is what you do when you have nothing else,” I realized very quickly after coming in contact with the devotees that there is nothing else and that this is what you do when you realize that the material world is void and that there is nothing worth pursuing here. And it has been kind of a reoccurrence, because in a span of thirty years you go through so many different stages of life and coming and going from Krishna consciousness. What always brings me back is that same realization that there is nothing in the material world. So I just wanted to say that. I don’t need to give the details of how I ran into the devotees, but I think that that is just . . .

Rose: . . . a realization.

Bhumi dasi: It is. It is a reoccurring realization that keeps bringing me back to Krishna consciousness. And I am very grateful for that, getting a lot of hard knocks in this world, because I know that if there were even one iota of a chance of enjoying this material world, I am probably ignorant enough to go for it. So Krishna has been very kind by taking everything away from me constantly and giving me good association. And that is where Rose comes in.

Lilashakti dasi: When did you meet Rose? How did you meet Rose?

Bhumi dasi: I think I met Rose in San Diego, because we used to go on sankirtana together and you, Rose, used to come to the Sunday feast. But I have gotten close with you more recently, since Lila and I became friends in Monterrey. I have always had a really hard relationship with my mother. I love my mother, but she has never understood my interest in Krishna consciousness, and I have never been able to really be myself with her, because my real self is I am a devotee, and I always have to edit and censor things when I am around my mother, not to freak her out. But with Rose I really get what I don’t get from my own mother, and I love that. It is really quite wonderful. We have a Krishna conscious mother, a surrogate.

Urvasi dasi: This could go on and on and on—never-ending. I was not in the Los Angeles temple until after Rose. I was in New York, Montreal, Chicago, Toronto, England. I was in England for a while and then came to the Los Angeles temple. But I had heard of Rose, and when I would come home to visit—because I grew up in the Los Angeles area in San Fernando Valley, at the west end—I would bring my parents to the Los Angeles temple. They were very pious, and both of them were very, very respectful of the temple. The devotees were so kind to the parents that visited, and I am sure that is because of your [Rose’s] training.

I remember this one time the devotees gave garlands to both my parents and we went into the temple room and my parents got down and bowed. Then my father just instinctively went straight to Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana and took his garland off and put it around Srila Prabhupada, and gave the garland to Srila Prabhupada. Wow! I was so pleased. He was just very humble in front of Srila Prabhupada. They did not know a whole lot, because I was not close at home with them, but they knew that I had accepted Srila Prabhupada as my guide. Another time when my mother came and visited, she sat down with a bunch of devotees and made garlands for the Deities. So they were very sweet.

I had heard of your activities, but it wasn’t really until coming out this way that I got to know you better. I just feel so blessed to know and to have that relationship with you and Sam, because you are such a wonderful example, not only for our parents and the older generation, but for us as well, being parents to our children, how you just so lovingly stayed connected with your daughter, with your children, and really took the time to understand what was important in their lives. It is very, very commendable. Many times when parents don’t understand, they just reject. I think that you and Sam have been shining examples for us. I am in Ojai, and being able to get to know you and have association with you, like Giriraj was saying, “To know him . . .” But “To know her, Rose, is to love her,” and I have true affection for you.

Rose: Some of us don’t have parents and don’t remember parents who would indulge in anything like this, but my mother at the age of eighty did sankirtana on State Street.

Devotees: Wow!

Lilashakti dasi: I trained her up! “What a great man does, common men follow.” She helped me distribute Back to Godheads, and she wanted to join in. She did good.

Rose: She did very well. When people tried to give my mother money for the magazine, she would often say, “That is not necessary. Just read it.”

Lilashakti dasi: Your grandson is going to say something about you. He knew you since he . . .

Das: I am sorry, but I am not much of a speaker.

Lilashakti dasi: You just remember when you were a little boy and they would come and see you at the temple. I have pictures of Das with his little bead bag on, about this tall, my mother and father holding him.

Devotee: I remember Das. He used to drive up in the little Volkswagen.

Lilashakti dasi: The one Ramesvara gave me to do sankirtana.

Devotee: The yellow one. And Das was always there. I remember that face. It was unmistakable. He looked just like Madhukara.

Rose: As I said earlier, this lady right here spoke on behalf of the movement. Really, she deserves so much credit for this. So loving.

Ann: Thank you. But I think you are overstating my role a little bit.

Rose: I remember.

Giriraj Swami: Would you like to tell us . . .

Ann: I liked the idea of Linda going to Krishna, because she had problems at that time. All the kids had problems. That was the year of what?

Rose: The year of problems.

Ann: In the ’60s.

Lilashakti dasi: What she is trying to say is that I was pretty wild.

Ann: I am not going to say that, but I was glad when you became a Krishna member, and I thought it could only be good, after your life. And so it was, and you are still a good girl.

Giriraj Swami: She always was and still is!

Rose: Very loyal.

Ann: Well, I loved her. I still do.

Jagadambika dasi: I got a Bhagavad-gita through a friend of mine, and one day I began to read it, and I stayed up for twenty-four hours straight and read the whole book. I was mesmerized. So I read it, but I had never heard of devotees. In the front of the book it said that for further questions you could write the secretary, so I called Information, got the telephone number of the temple, and told the devotees that I was reading this book, Bhagavad-gita, and that I wanted more books. They invited me to come to the temple. So I came on a Sunday and bought a full set of books. I wasn’t interested in prasada, because I was into macrobiotics and thought you shouldn’t eat sugar or fried or spicy food. Then I met Vrndadevi and her husband, Radha-Gopinatha, and they explained to me about the prasada and why I should take it. It took me two or three months to really appreciate what prasada meant. Anyway, after that Sunday I started to come to the temple every day.

My home was in Seal Beach. So, I was reading that full set of books. One day at the temple I met Ramesvara, and he asked me what I was doing with my life. I replied, “Right now, just searching for the Absolute Truth.” So he said, “You will find it in those books.” I was not working at the time. I was sitting on the beach all day, reading and doing yoga. He invited me to come to work in the BBT warehouse on Higuera Street. There I met Ghanasyama dasa, who later became Bhakti Tirtha Swami after taking sannyasa.

My service was to ship books to colleges. The devotees would go out and get standing orders. The colleges might want just one book, and I felt like it was a waste of my time to come in to ship just one book to a college. So I thought of sending more books. Then colleges were getting bills, and they were complaining: “You over-billed us. You are sending books that we did not ask for.” The temple authorities could not find out who was doing it. I thought everybody should have these books. Finally, they found out it was me. Ramesvara asked, “Are you doing this?” I said, “No, I am not doing that. I am only sending them books that they ordered.” I was not over-billing the people, but they found out that I was sending them more books. So he said, “Well, maybe you want to go and take your time,” like that. I did not understand what “take your time” meant.

So they sent me to the Santa Monica mall with some devotees, and they would stop people and pin little daisies on them and ask for donations. I thought, “I am not going to go out and beg. My parents never taught me to beg for anything.” I couldn’t do it. So I called Ramesvara, “When are you going to pick me up? I am not a beggar. If I go out, I want to do books.”

Lilashakti dasi: Was that in ’76?

Jagadambika dasi: 1977. I felt like distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, and Mula Prakriti was the first devotee to teach me how. That was when I started meeting your mum. She was doing the FOLK program and mailing Back to Godheads. I also always felt like you, Rose, were my mum, although my mother didn’t pass away until 1978. I think you were also instrumental in me not being deprogrammed, because at that time my parents were real strict Christians. My dad was a minister and a gospel singer. The whole family was like that. They were either into politics or they were preaching. At one point in 1977 my brothers decided that I had lost my mind, because I had officially joined the Hare Krishnas and given away all my material possessions. So they came and gave me some made-up story: “Oh, mum is dying. She is having a heart attack. You have been away. Her desire is to see you before she dies.”

So I rushed home, to the country, where we grew up, and the deprogrammers were there. They were saying, “You have to eat meat. Those people are crazy. They have brainwashed you.” This went on for two or three days. After the third day, my mum came. I had not seen her yet. I told her that I thought she had had a heart attack and was dying. She said, “No, there is nothing wrong with me, but your sisters and brothers said that you have lost your mind, you are crazy, you have joined these Hare Krishna people, and they are weird.” So they did not understand anything. But this is where I think your mum came into the picture. My mum sat and talked with me for three hours, and finally she came to the conclusion that “My daughter is fine. She is not brainwashed. She is in her right mind. She can stay with the Krishnas.” And the deprogrammers were like, “Now she brainwashed you to be like them.” It was a whole big thing.

Somehow or other, someone had been sending my mum Back to Godheads. It was not me, and I do not know how they got the address. But she was getting your mother’s newsletters, so I think that that saved me, because my mum helped me escape the deprogrammers and my brothers and sisters, and get back to California. Then I went on traveling sankirtana.

Rose would always encourage us to distribute books. “How was your day?” “How are you?” I have always seen Rose as my mum. Although I have my mother-in-law, we still see Rose as our mother and Sam as our father. No matter what we needed or what time of day it was, whether it was 1 or 2 a.m., it didn’t matter; they were always there for us.

Lilashakti dasi: My mother would always speak about you. She never repeated your name to me, but she would always refer to “the girl there that always took such good care of Sam and me.” Every trip to Los Angeles they would come back and glorify you, how the line was so long but you would go right up to the front and get them prasada, and always got them chairs. Every time they came back my father would talk so fondly about you, and I never really knew who they were talking about. Now I know.

Jagadambika dasi: I just know that your mum is always very kind. Back then I had a lot of problems and a lot of issues about how women were treated. Women stayed in the back and covered their head. But I would always come to Rose and Sam, and they were always like my authorities. No matter how busy they were, they always had time for everyone. Such good listeners, your mother and your father. They preached to us about reality, and the whole movement saw Rose as the mother of the Hare Krishna movement.

Giriraj Swami: Yes, and many of us still feel that way about her. So, we thank you all for sharing your wonderful memories of ISKCON’s mother, Rose Forkash.

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