His Grace Jayananda Prabhu – Disappearance – May 4, 2012
Jayananda Prabhu was born as Jim Kohr in the US to an upper middle-class family. He took a degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University. However he was often dissatisfied with the material conception of life.
Jim was attracted to Srila Prabhupada in 1967, who had been in the U.S.A for only a year and was in the process of establishing his mission of bringing Krishna consciousness to the Western world. Soon thereafter Srila Prabhupada accepted Jim as his disciple and initiated him with the spiritual name Jayananda.
Jayananda was completely enamored by Krishna consciousness. He would rise every day morning before four, perform arati, chant his rounds, read and cook prasadam. He would then venture out for selling incense sticks.
Jayananda worshipped prasadam. He loved to cook, eat, offer and distribute prasadam in a big way. He was always seen chanting and dancing enthusiastically during kirtan. Jayananda treated everyone as his superior, even new devotees. Although his service was glorious, he never wanted any glory.
Jayananda was an expert at everything: cooking, preaching, Deity worship, public relations, sankirtan, selling incense, construction, and anything that it took to spread Krishna consciousness. He was a tireless worker, first to rise in the morning and last to sleep at night.
Jayananda never spoke harsh words or chastised anybody. During Ratha-yatra he would organize hippies, uncooperative persons and non-devotees off the street to help build the chariots. Jayananda was the backbone of the Bay area Ratha-yatra for several years. Behind the scene he would do everything for the preparation of the festival. He would beg food, flowers, and funds – buy materials and build the carts. He would arrange for the permits, organize the cooking and serving of prasad.
Jayananda had almost no possessions, even during his years as a householder. For many years he was almost single handedly supporting the temple by driving his cab for 12-14 hours a day. When he was in his last days of his life, he used the money given to him for his treatment to support the Ratha-yatra in Los Angeles.
His final lesson in material detachment came when it was discovered that he was suffering from cancer of the lymph and blood. Jayananda continued as if nothing had changed. When his body became frail and weak, he continued preaching, inspiring and organizing from his bed in the hospital. For him the body was simply a means to render devotional service to the Lord.
Towards the last few days of his life, Jayananda was busy organizing the Ratha-yatra from the hospital bed. He would sleep less than three hours a day, yet he was very energetic. In his last days, he was put on an intravenous diet, yet he would ask devotees to sneak in huge quantities of samosas which he would happily consume.
When he left his body on May 1, 1977, Srila Prabhupada said the following in a letter to Rameshvara, dtd May 11, 1977, New Delhi:
“Jayananda's death is glorious. It is very good that he had stated, what is the use of such a useless body, better to give it up. He has left his body very wonderfully, and he has been transferred to Vaikuntha. Everyone should follow the example of Jayananda. I am very proud that I had such a nice disciple. If possible Jayananda's picture should be hung in the ratha of Lord Jagannatha, and in all of our temples a day may be set aside for holding a festival in his honor, just as we do on the disappearance day of the other great Vaishnavas.”