In Honor and Remembrance of Rasaja Devi Dasi
Posted January 2, 2010
My name is Prahladpriya das (ACBSP) I was informed of the passing of my friend and God-sister Rasaja Devi on Dec 28th. It was my wife’s birthday, needless to say I will never forget the day of her passing.
I met Rasaja when I was 19 years old. The Radha Damodar party had docked at the 55th street temple in New York. I admit that I was enamored by her beauty, but more enamored by her humility, her friendly nature, her deep concern for others and most of all, her devotion to Srila Prabhupad. We worked together the following year at Candle Fashions, a temple business that was set up to bring in raise funds for the temple. We traveled together back and forth to the mall and I got to know her very well. We quickly became friends. At her behest I reluctantly took on various roles in the theater company allowing me the opportunity to witness first hand her deep love and affection for our Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupad.
We then became connected in the strangest of ways. On September 28th, 1977 in the evening my then wife who was pregnant began to go into labor. I ran from the temple to get the car to bring her to the birthing clinic. When I arrived back to the temple less than 15 minutes later, I was greeted at the door by Bhaktivinode das and he informed me that I need not rush as the child had already been delivered. I did not know at that time if he was joking or not. I rushed up to the 8th floor of the temple and toward the bathroom. Sure enough there was Rasaja devi kneeling over Purna Shakti devi- She smiled that broad smile and with tears in her eyes said “Congratulations Prahlad “ you have a beautiful baby girl, born at the Lotus Feet of Sri Sri Radha Govinda” . We named the baby Sita Devi dasi . Little did I know at the time that the name Sita Devi would go on to be synonymous with the role Rasaja so aptly portrayed for years to come.
As time passed we always kept in touch. Rasaja would encourage me when I would explain my difficulties in devotional service. I knew I was unqualified and had always felt that I was a pretender. I felt I should have never burdened Srila Prabhupad by taking initiation. She reassure me that I should remain in devotional service. I would reveal my mind to her and she would say “ Prahlad, at least you’re honest about who you are and what you are. That mentality alone will keep you close to Srila Prabhupada.”
When Sita Devi grew up she had a daughter. After some thought Sita Devi decided to make Rasaja the namesake- and named our granddaughter Rasa Lila. In 2003 we lost Sita Devi and her husband Dan in a tragic car accident. Shortly afterward I received a call from Rasa and she reminded me that I should not lament. Sita Devi was born in Radha govindas temple she said. She is with Krishna now. I could not help but to always feel a debt of gratitude toward Rasaja for all she had done for me. In 2005 in an effort to repay this debt, I requested that she allow me to purchase a ticket for her and have her join my family on a trip to India. She accepted and Lory (my wife), Arjuna Das (my son) Rasaja, Dharma Setu and Ragaputra das ( two of my dearest friend) set off on our journey. It was an amazing time and my friendship and love grew even deeper during this pilgrimage. We discussed so many things including our age , realizations , friendships and the end game, death. I know we were very much alike in that we never felt qualified or worthy. We shared that insecurity, however we agreed to never stop trying.
I want to share an experience that that exemplifies Rasaja. In 1977-78 in New York Temple there were many complaints from the householders on the 8th floor about the insensitive way that we were being awakened for Mangal Arati . Loud bells and loud calls to wake up from the temple commander only brought anxiety to the occupants. Rasaja decide to take over this responsibility. At 3:30 while I slept in complete ignorance, I would hear a voice singing sweetly from the hallway. Playing a tambora Rasaja would travel the length of the hallway chanting the bhajan Jiva Jago, Jiva Jago,. It felt as though we hearing from the Spiritual world. Her voice was like a Gandarva
sometimes I can still hear her. I feel empty and lost now that she has departed. I pray that any pious activities that I may have accumulated over the years go directly to her. And that she attains ( as my God-brother Dharma Setu so aptly put it) an eternal place in the pastimes that she so wonderfully portrayed for our Spiritual Master , whom she so dearly loved. I beg to be forgiven for my unlimited offenses over the years- at the feet of all of my God-brothers and God-sisters. It is by there mercy I still remain in the service of His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupad. There are many pastimes – to many for me to recount. Please take the time to share your memories about Rasaja to enliven all of us. In service