Remembering Candravali, Guyana ISKCON leader
Posted December 20, 2003
Candravali dasi prabhu, a prominent ISKCON leader from Guyana, South America, left this world in London on December 11, in the presence of her husband, Hari das prabhu, and other relatives.
Virabahu das, a Los Angeles devotee, described Candravali dasi as "one of ISKCON's most dedicated members." She had battled health problems for some years and recently underwent a major operation in Pakistan.
Devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness knew Candravali dasi for 20 years. Before initiation, she was fondly called Aunty Sona or Sister Sona. (In Hindi, sona means 'gold'.) She was certainly a valuable gem; even before being a full-fledged devotee, everyone on the Corentyne Coast of Guyana spoke of her and of the Dharrys [her family] of Rose Hall as benevolent and charitable.
We first met her in her store around 1983; she appeared intelligent and aristocratic. Agrani Swami introduced to her the pristine teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and later became her guru. She promptly gave up all forms of sinful life. This is the sign of a great personality: one immediately implements good guidance in one's life.
Candravali prabhu's passing from this mortal world last week was a shock to us at ISKCON Guyana and to the many people whose lives have been touched by her kindness.
"Mataji," as she was affectionately called, was the prime mover of things in our Society here. Her vision, skill and taste in the fine arts were incomparable; her greatness was that she did not use her ability for personal gain, but towards the betterment of humanity. She was expert in utilizing her talents to bring people closer to God.
The first Ratha Yatra Cart Festival of Lord Jagannatha in Berbice, Guyana, was her brainchild. She spent sleepless nights formulating designs, using her personal finances to direct construction and organize festivities. All her money -- and her very self -- was dedicated towards the service of God and the devotees. Yearly Diwali processions were her creation. She was instrumental in Food for Life and book distribution programs, organizing street corner pandal preaching programs, etc.
Her life's masterpiece began in 1996, when she revealed ambitious plans to inaugurate the massive 105 feet X 75 feet (35m X 25m) New Kulinagram Mandir at Williamsburg on the Corentyne. Sometimes, even in failing health, Candravali prabhu would travel back and forth to the United States trying to solicit donations for this project, which many thought a mere pipe dream. For her, though, "the word 'impossible' was a word in the fool's dictionary." At its completion in 2000, she officiated at the grand opening of the biggest Hare Krsna temple in the Caribbean.
Candravali prabhu had integrity, honesty and kindness; she was magnanimous, indifferent to material acquisition, respectful, compassionate, and a friend of all. Above all, she was always surrendered at the feet of Lord Sri Krsna.
Among the Vaisnavas, she was a natural leader; to most of the younger devotees, she was a mother-figure. As a sister, she always upheld her family's good name. As a wife she was ideal, chaste and a model homemaker. She will long maintain a place in the hearts of many.
But has she actually died? The Vaisnava poet Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote:
"He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die When thou are still living in sound! The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try To spread the Holy Name around."
The passing of a Vaisnava is not mitigated by anyone's sympathy. A Vaisnava leaving her body doesn't have the tragedy of an ordinary death, but it is tragic nonetheless. Candravali prabhu was doing so much for Guyana. Those of us who have been touched by her will continue to feel a stark emptiness and feeling of separation.
On the other hand, when a Vaisnava departs, it is, in one sense, a matter of rejoicing. According to revealed scriptures, there are two ways of leaving this world: in darkness or in light. Ordinarily, at the time of death, the soul may travel anywhere in the universe according to karma. Because Candravali dasi's life was fully dedicated to the service of Krsna, she left this world in light and, according to the import of the Gita, her destination is either back to Krsnaloka or to some higher stage of existence where she can continue devotional service. In this sense, therefore, there is no loss.
Everyone has the tendency: you don't appreciate something until it's taken away. Candravali prabhu's leaving is meant for us to increase our affection for her. We can meditate on her commitment to bhakti, follow in her footsteps and, in so doing, become better human beings. If the Vaisnava community truly loves her, they will try to maintain what she has left us and finish what she has left unfinished.
Candravali dasi's life did not end on December 11, 2003. She continues to live on in all her sacred contributions, and those who are sincere will continue to live with her.
Funeral rites and cremation were December 19 in London. Devotees are
invited to a Memorial Service at Bhaktivedanta Manor Sunday, December 21 at