Remembering Damodara Dasa
Posted July 2, 2010
On June 29, 2002, a 23-year-old devotee named Damodara dasa committed suicide by hanging himself in a tree at the ISKCON temple in Potomac, Maryland. The official notice posted below tells us some of the details surrounding the event and a few things about Damodara prabhu himself. What the notice will not tell you, however, is that just one day before the suicide, Damodara’s much anticipated trip to India had been cancelled once the devotees found out he was gay. This fact was kept mostly secret and consequently there was never any official evaluation of the Hare Krishna movement’s discriminatory practices against gay members and the negative impact they are likely to have, particularly upon young people.
The tragic suicide inspired one of ISKCON’s leaders, His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, to revisit the GALVA article Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex and reassess his own understanding and approach toward gay and lesbian devotees within ISKCON. His positive reassessments, however, were met mostly with ridicule and/or silence from his peers. Therefore on this day we humbly request all devotees to remember Damodara prabhu and reflect upon ending all of the prejudicial practices and attitudes that cause so much distress to others. Someone’s life will literally depend upon it.
Suicide At ISKCON Temple
By Trikalajna Das
(Posted on VNN and Chakra)
POTOMAC, USA, Jul 4, 2002 — On Saturday, June 29th evening, Dragon Bilbija (Damodar das spiritual ordained name) committed suicide in the woods in Potomac, Maryland. We were informed by the police about this in the evening at around 9:30 pm.
Bilbija, a young man aged 23, had been in Potomac since July 2001, offering religious voluntary services to the Krishna temple. He was planning to leave for his native country, Serbia, early July.
Damodar was initiated by Krishna Kshetra Prabhu. He was a very active member of the community who was liked by all the Temple devotees as well as the community members. Being a service-oriented person he was engaged in cooking and serving Prasadam as well as keeping up with other preaching activities, especially the Harinams and Namahatta programs.
On the day of the suicide, he was very sincerely engaged in dressing Srila Prabhupada early in the morning. Then he also helped most of the morning to prepare for the free feast distribution for the Ratha Yatra Festival. Later on in the afternoon he also rendered services. However, tragically in the late evening he went into the forest land of Potomac Temple and hung himself.
In a suicide note he expressed his love for his family members, especially two of his sisters who are also of the Krishna faith. Actually, he had planned to go back to Europe and join his sisters in Book distribution. He always spoke highly of sisters, Shayama Priya dasi and Sri Khanda dasi, and was also attached to being with them.
An investigation of this unfortunate death is being conducted by the police. As per the requirements of the state of Maryland, an autopsy will be performed.
Funeral arrangements will be determined in consultation with his family. A memorial service will be held on Monday 1st July at the Krishna Potomac temple in the evening at 7 pm.
All members of ISKCON Potomac are shocked with the sudden demise of Damodar Das. We are very sad to lose the association of such a wonderful devotee and friend. He will be very much missed and remembered by all the community members of ISKCON Potomac. We humbly request all our leaders and devotees to pray to Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan for the welfare of the departed soul.