Lack of values has led to suffering, says Prema Pandurang.
Love God, have faith… Prema Pandurang’s refrain echoes long after departure from Kshetropasna, Gokuldam. Her emphasis on sharing, a trait on the wane, puts things in the right perspective. “Giving has stopped,” she regrets.
“It is depressing to hear of violence, murder and assaults, which have become common place. My heart goes out to the victims. But what are the reasons? Intolerance, greed and there is no bonding, even among family members.”
Premaji cites the Ramayana as a great example of bonding. “Dasaratha’s sons stood together in crises; in spite of Kaikeyi’s betrayal, she was not ostracised, Sugriva was steadfast in his friendship and so on. Our scriptures have everything, only they are not accessed.”
What is the panacea? “Love,” states Prema Pandurang, who started speaking of Krishna when she was in her teens. “Control anger, learn to be content, things will fall in place,” she says. “Yagna, dharma and tapas… these are the three actions Krishna wants us to pursue. Set aside just one-tenth of your income for charity, you will be touching so many lives. Pray and have faith in Him, there will be no grief,” she adds.
But even those who have faith were apprehensive about December 21? The preacher replies: “Abhimanyu is lying dead. Everybody, including Arjuna, is sobbing. So is Krishna. To the surprised onlooker He says, ‘All my teachings to Arjuna have gone in vain.’ You can imagine the plight of ordinary mortals. But it is faith that is going to keep you afloat. One who has faith does not fall into depression or resort to suicide.”
She should know. Premaji weathered the storms that life threw at her to attain this stature. “The tribulations strengthened my faith in Him. Is gold not burnished to shine so beautifully? It was 21 years ago that I stepped into this place and I did not dream that one day Kshetropasna would become a shelter of this nature. I have no bitterness, there is no rancour, it all happened to a plan, His plan. He fashions His tools and my heart brims with joy.”
“Learn to thank the Lord and people for favours big and small” is another dictum. The attitude of gratitude develops humility that again is vital for peace.
Premaji indeed exudes optimism. “Do you know that a humble farmer gave me a piece of this property for an advance of Rs. 1,000,” she asks. “That was all the money I had. The next day, when some one approached him with suitcases containing lakhs of rupees, he refused to touch it. ‘I have taken advance from Amma and given my word,’ he told them. What honesty! There are such good souls even today. May be they are outnumbered, but one day, there will be a turnaround.”
An early indication of her calling happened when she was 15, at Tirupparaiyar in Kerala. She was a regular at the pravachanam of Sri Sengalipuram Anantarama Dikshitar from the age of 10 and one day he announced, “This child will now speak on Krishna Bhakti.” “I was taken aback,” says Premaji. “But I spoke and have not looked back.” She has travelled the length and breadth of the country and crossed the shore to spread the message of the Bhagavatam.
“I had the fortune of meeting Prabhu Pada, who blessed me. Putting a garland round my neck, he said, ‘Go, Gopi, spread the magnificence of the Bhagavatam all over the world!’” The words proved prophetic. A professor of English, Premaji opted for voluntary retirement to immerse herself in the treasure of Krishna bhakti. Emerson and Hemingway flow freely in her talk.
Why English? It is the educated and elite, who commit crimes and are involved in scams at the national level. The message should penetrate their ego and arouse their conscience.
“The Lord has blessed me in several ways,” continues Premaji. “I lecture in Hindi fluently but do you know that I never mastered the language? His grace and gurus’ blessings. Again, my singing. I always longed to sing, the best way to capture hearts. Wouldn’t it be heavenly to sing His praise? But years of classroom teaching had made my voice hoarse and I had no training. Then one fine day, I started singing, the stanzas just pouring out. So far I have composed about 400 bhajans. I have no clue about the raga or tala.”
“Krishna, please come… I’ll spread flowers on your path and welcome you… I have no kith and kin, except you… Come with your music that is a mixture of honey and candy…” so goes the song Premaji sings, soaked in her love for Murali.
“Pt. Ravishankar once asked me to sing and when I retorted why a maestro like him would want to hear my humble songs, he said, ‘Your songs are composed by Him.’ So true. I can’t take the credit for any of this. He fashions His tools.”
In Montreal, where she was presenting a lecture, among the audience was a young mother, whose baby was incessantly crying. “I took the baby in my arms and softly sang, ‘Govinda Damodara Madhaveti…’ the beautiful sloka of Bilvamangala Takur. Leaning on my shoulder, the child had gone to sleep. The mother exclaimed, ‘I attended all the seven days of your discourse when you came here a year ago. I was pregnant then. The child seems to have recognised your voice!’
“She was right. Don’t underestimate the power of pre-natal vibrations. Prahlada is not a figment of imagination. Communication begins in the womb. Women should speak of good things and listen to auspicious things when they are expecting babies. Positive energy will flow.”
A small group of boys pushing a trolley of vessels greets her and the Mother reciprocates with the query whether they had their meal. “I started my mission with a few slum children. They happily shared whatever little I could offer (generally a glass of milk and some curd rice) them in those days. The practice continues, only the number has increased and the meal is more wholesome.”
Prema Pandurangan’s ultimate aim is to found a College of Values. “Because that is the most neglected subject and that which can put the world on the right path. With His grace, that should materialise.