ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION
“I found out my boyfriend had this brother who was a swami. I didn’t know what a swami was and he couldn’t figure out what his name was. Inter? Maharaj? It’s hard to spell that when you’re loaded! I couldn’t figure out how to spell it so we tried to find him on the internet, and finally one night about 2 o’clock in the morning, I found him.
He was in Poland. I emailed him and told him that his brother was suicidal—that I was his girlfriend and I wanted out and I had to take my children but I couldn’t just leave him because I loved him and he was my best friend.
Within two hours I had an email back, thanking me, telling me I’m the angel. He’d been looking for his brother for 10 years; couldn’t find him, and thought he was dead. He said he had had a private detective looking for him. You know when you’re on the street, nobody can find you if you don’t want to be found. It’s a whole different society.
Within five weeks, we were in Poland with swami and the devotees. The swami brought us—not knowing me, not knowing my children—but he knew that my boyfriend would not come without us. He didn’t want to go; he was real resistant, but I told him that I was going. This was my way out of the ghetto. This was my ticket out with my kids. And I knew once I got there my life was going to change. I had a feeling that this man held a key to something I’d been looking for all my life.”
I met Rangavali Devi Dasi at the Hare Krishna New Raman Reti Temple in Alachua, Florida. It is also where my dear friend, Kardama Muni Das (Carl Mink) lives. Rangavali’s story shows that we are all only one degree of separation from each other.
She was homeless, living on the streets of San Francisco with her children and her boyfriend. Eager to get off the streets but worried to leave her boyfriend behind, she started searching for her boyfriend’s brother knowing only vaguely that he was a spiritual leader in the Hare Krishnas and that his name was Indradyumna Swami. It was the early days of the internet, but she found him in Poland. Indradyumna Swami had been searching for his brother for over 10 years with private investigators, fearing that he was dead. Within one week, Rangavali, her children, and her boyfriend had passports and were on their way to Poland. Rangavali said that for four weeks the Hare Krishna devotees “loved us whole.” Ultimately, Rangavali and her boyfriend and children came to the New Raman Reti Temple and community in Alachua, Florida to set up a new life. Today, Rangavali has successfully raised her children, now has three grandchildren and runs a store in Gainesville, Florida called Blu Crystal that sells CBD oil, crystals, clothing, and books with topics on the many spiritual pathways.
Some years after this interview, I was in Melbourne, Australia for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. A friend invited me to a Hare Krishna performance, and I realized the organizer was the swami, Indradyumna Swami. I went up to meet him after the performance and shared that I had interviewed his sister-in-law, Rangavali, and had heard the wonderful story of how he got them off the streets and brought them to a new life.
Rangavali’s story reminds me that we are not six degrees of separation from each other. There is only one degree of separation. I went looking for a sacred text to support this idea and I found the Hindu concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, from vasudha [the earth]; iva [is]; and kutumbakam [family]. It means that the whole world is one single family. The concept originates in the Vedic scripture Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72):
“Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.”
There are three significant lessons in this story: That we are never far from those who love us and will take us in; that we are the ones (you are the one, and I am the one) who must take others in; and, to never give up on anybody.