Serving Krishna by Serving Tulasi

Serving Krishna by Serving Tulasi

( – Serving Krishna by Serving Tulasi

By Vishakha Devi Dasi

The luxurious growth of one of Krishna’s greatest devotees, who appears in a special form, attests to the devotion of two of her dedicated caretakers.

Srila Prabhupada once quoted an atheist as saying, “What is the use of watering the Tulasi plant? It is better to water eggplant. By watering the eggplant one can get some fruits, but what is the use of watering the Tulasi?”

Rudrani Devi Dasi, one of Tulasi’s caretakers at ISKCON Vancouver, responds to this challenge.

“Tulasi is not an ordinary plant,” she says. “Just consider even her scientific Latin name—Ocimum sanctum. Ocimum means she is related to the herb basil, and sanctum means ‘holy.’ She is known as Holy Basil and is recognized as uniquely auspicious in all the Vedic scriptures, by all the saints in our tradition, and by our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.”

Rudrani’s husband, Sananda Kumara Dasa, who also takes care of Tulasi, says, “A skeptic may think, ‘God is fictitious. God’s service is another sentiment. Do something practical, ’ but a person who has some faith will not be satisfied by such so-called logic. God, Krishna, is more than a force, light, or energy. He is a person, the Supreme Person, who is the source of all force and light and energy and is also an individual. Krishna has his favorite place: Vrindavana. And his favorite animal: the cow. And he also has his favorite plant: Tulasi. Honoring Tulasi can give us the highest attainment: devotion to Lord Krishna. In India all Hindus, even those not belonging to the Vaishnava group, take special care of the Tulasi tree, and every day the devotees in our Hare Krishna movement pray to Tulasi, ‘Please give me the privilege of devotional service. ’”

In a purport in his earliest edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “Krishna desires that one offer Him either a leaf, or a flower, or fruit, or a little water—and by such an offering he is satisfied. This leaf especially refers to the Tulasi. So one can sow Tulasi and pour water on the plant.” Two years later, in the spring of 1970, Prabhupada was delighted to introduce the worship of Tulasi in his ISKCON center in Hawaii, and today Tulasi is worshiped in almost all of the hundreds of ISKCON centers throughout the world.

In 2002 the Tulasi plants in Vancouver, which were housed in a small, well-worn greenhouse, had a crisis: Each Tulasi plant lost every one of its leaves because of a misapplication of plant medicine. As soon as Rudrani, who was not active in Tulasi’s service at that time, heard about this, she took steps to help, and seeing her determination, Sananda also became active. Sananda had grown up in South India, where his family was responsible for providing Tulasi leaves, as well as fresh milk and flowers, to the local temple of Lord Vishnu. He had experience with growing Tulasi, but only outdoors in a tropical climate. Growing them indoors was quite different. Rudrani, who had cared for Tulasi in other North American ISKCON temples, knew how to grow her inside. Gradually this determined couple drew other qualified devotees to Tulasi’s service.

After dozens of phone calls, Rudrani found a suitable greenhouse model for Tulasi, and she and Sananda persuaded the temple board to spend $20,000 (Canadian) for two greenhouses with special grow lights, complete air ventilation, and controlled air and water temperatures. When all these electrical systems are running they consume thirty kilowatts per hour. Tulasi’s Vancouver caretakers spend hours each day to water her, pick her leaves (Krishna prefers that food offered to him be decorated with a leaf from Tulasi), make manjari (Tulasi flower) garlands for Sri Madana Mohana (the deity of Krishna worshiped in the Vancouver temple), humidify the greenhouses, and control the spider mites that occasionally attack her. As a result of their expertise and devotion, the Tulasi plants are flourishing and have grown so large that the greenhouses are now crowded.

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