“And so I found out he had this brother who was a Swami. I didn’t know what a Swami was and you know he couldn’t figure out what his name was, it was Inter? Maharaj. It’s real hard to spell that when you’re loaded. I can’t figure out how to spell so we tried to find him on the internet and finally one night about 2 o’clock in the morning I found him. And 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 you know I loved him and he was my best friend. Within two hours I had an email back from Poland from his brother thanking me, telling me I’m the angel. He’s been looking for his brother for ten years, couldn’t find him thought he was dead. 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. And within five weeks, we were in Poland with the devotees. He got, we got passports, we got expedited all this stuff. Maraj brought us – not knowing me, not knowing my children, he knew that my husband would not come without us. He didn’t want to go anyway. He was real resistant and I told him that I was going. This was my way out of the ghetto. This was my ticket out with my kids, I’m going. And I know once I get there my life’s going to change. I had that. I had a feeling that this man held a key to something I’ve been looking for all my life. “
I met Rangavali Devi Dasi at the Hare Krishna New Raman Reti Temple in Alachua, Florida where my dear friend Kardama Muni Das (Carl Mink) lives. Rangavali’s story reminds me 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 Krishna’s 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 ten years with private investigators even 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 about many spiritual pathways.
Some years after this interview, I was in Melbourne, Australia for the Parliament of World Religions. A friend invited me to a Hare Krishna performance. I realized the organizer was the very same, 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 but 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” (Sanskrit: वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम. from “vasudha”, the earth; “iva”, is ; and “kutumbakam”, family) and which means that the whole world is one single family. The concept originates in the Vedic scripture Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72): अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं “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” (Source: https://vasudaikakutumbam.wordpress.com)
There are so many lessons in this story. That we are never far from those who will love us and take us in. That we are the ones (I am the one) that must take others in. That we never give up on anybody.