Ananta Shanti dasa
REMEMBERING ANANTA SHANTI DASA
The only Russian disciple Srila Prabhupada personally initiated was Ananta Santi dasa. Ananta Santi departed this world on June 2, 2013 in Moscow apparently due to a sudden brain hemorrhage.
No one has got any philosophy nowadays, everyone is acting according to his own whims. Therefore there is no security, no peace, everything is unpredictable and dangerous. Therefore all the young boys and girls in your country—and all over the world—are fed up with this lack of philosophy and they have taken to the philosophy of hopelessness: Everything is empty, therefore let me enjoy, it doesn’t matter. But this philosophy is also useless. Because if you want to enjoy and I also want to enjoy, there will be clash, fighting. And we have seen in Moscow that Marx and Lenin philosophy is no better. God is dead, the State is God: this philosophy has killed the spirit, and the Russian people are very morose and unhappy. They want to join us, that is a fact. (Letter from Srila Prabhupada to: Danavir — Delhi 12 December, 1971)
ANANTA SHANTI DAS: IN HIS OWN WORDS
Anatoli Fedorovich Pinyayev (Ananta-santi dasa) was the first Soviet Hare Krsna devotee. Because of his active preaching throughout the USSR and because of the spiritual influence he had on many people, he was subjected to severe persecution for five and a half years at the hands of the staff at various Soviet psychiatric hospitals. The following excerpts are from an interview with him conducted in February 1988. (Submitted by Indradyumna Swami)
I started preaching Krsna consciousness after Srila Prabhupada visited Moscow in 1971. Gradually people in the Soviet Union became more and more attracted to Krsna consciousness and it became quite widespread. The authorities, however, became afraid because so many from the intelligentsia were interested in Krsna consciousness. Everything spiritual was considered to be criminal and thus they started repressions.
It was just like an explosion of Krsna consciousness in the Soviet Union. The authorities were terrified so they tried to discredit the movement and present it as simply a group of crazy criminals. Because I was the first one to preach and the only disciple of Srila Prabhupada, they tried to repress me and present me as a crazy criminal. The court accused my godbrothers and me of teaching vegetarianism, which they said is harmful to the body, and for teaching mantras and praying, which they said is harmful for a person’s mental condition. On this ridiculous pretext they were accusing us.
At the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust exhibit at the 1979 Moscow International book Fair, thousands of Russians were introduced to Srila Prabhupada’s books.
I was imprisoned and they tried to present every person who was following Krsna consciousness in this country as crazy. They then put me in a mental prison, a mental jail. There the doctors said that they were taught that religious believers are insane, and that only insane persons can think that there is a God, that there is spirit, and that we are not these bodies but spiritual sparks.
I was given courses of medication for many months. They gave me drugs three times a day. It was so bad that I was only able to lie in bed. This drug was special; it made it impossible to concentrate on anything. If I tried to chant loudly they would give me such large doses that I could have died. Lying on the bed I had so much material discomfort; these drugs make you restless and force you to change the position of your body all the time. I was feeling very weak and so much discomfort. It was just like torture for months and years. The only pause in the torture was when I was sleeping at night.
Initially, when the psychiatrists considered me crazy, they brought me from the regular prison to a psychiatric prison in Smolensk. It was on the same site as the ordinary prison but it had special cells for psychiatric prisoners. It had the bad aspects of both a mental asylum and prison. We were living in small cells with about twenty people in each. There was not enough fresh air. We took baths irregularly, sometimes not for 23 days. Many people there had insects on their bodies.
The entire place was very dirty. The food was prepared very badly. People there often had their teeth fall out and their gums would bleed. I was taking very little food. Everything was a problem there. Even the janitors were criminals. It was a place for crazy criminals and there was constant fighting amongst them. There was pressure from the doctors, the janitors, the criminals, everyone. Everyone was very much disturbed. My relatives were told that I would never be released.
The prisoners were punished for everything. I was trying to wash my clothes and every morning I tried to wash at least parts of my body. But I was punished many times for this. They did not like this. The janitors tried to beat me up several times.
There was psychological pressure all the time. Drugs were given for any reason and on any pretext. Somehow or the other the doctors decided I was eligible for release from this special psychiatric prison to a normal psychiatric prison. The KGB did not like this because their aim was to keep me there for my whole life. So instead I was transferred to another special psychiatric prison in the city of Oryol.
Everyone in that place was astonished by the fact that I was imprisoned for preaching religion. They saw that the authorities were especially oppressive towards me; they could not understand why.
I found out from my mother that my godbrothers all over the world had started a campaign for my release, as well as the release of other imprisoned devotees in the Soviet Union. The situation changed a little. During the last half year in Oryol some changes where expected, so I started to preach more at that time.
In Smolensk I was kept in one ward where there was a doctor who was famous for his sadistic inclinations. In Oryol, however, my last doctor told me that I was completely sane. He said he understood that I was in the mental prison because of the political situation. Before “perestroika” every aspect of spiritual and intellectual life was oppressed in our country. He said, “Time is working for you. Because of the changes in our society and because of the help from abroad, sooner or later you will be released.” He was a little compassionate towards me and I preached to him. I was very thankful to my godbrothers and people all over the world who did something to somehow release me.
I was released from the Oryol psychiatric prison in a very strange and unusual way. One day my doctor called me in and said he was a little bit agitated. He told me that some papers had come from Moscow saying that I should be released. He said that there would be a special professor coming from Moscow to be part of a medical commission that would release me.
When the professor came, he talked to my doctor for a long time about me without me being present. In the end he told my doctor, “Yes, he is completely sane. We will release him, but we will leave his diagnoses for now because his condition may appear again in the future.” When my doctor told me about this, I requested him to ask the professor, “Who can guarantee that you will not go crazy after some time?” My doctor told me, “Yes, I asked him this question and he told me that he also finds the symptoms of mental disease within himself.”
FROM THE GBC
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
A few days ago, we were shocked and saddened to hear of the departure of our dear godbrother, Ananta-santi Prabhu, a legend in the history of the Krsna consciousness movement.
In 1971, at the invitation of Professor Kotovsky, His Divine Grace visited Moscow with a desire to plant the seed of bhakti in an otherwise spiritually desolate land restrained under the Communist regime. Five days later, Srila Prabhupada departed from Moscow having not only shared the wealth of Krsna consciousness, but miraculously leaving behind a newly initiated disciple — the first Russian Gaudiya Vaisnava.
That glorious Vaisnava, lovingly named Ananta-santi Das by His Divine
Grace, would go on to become a hero for generations of devotees to come.
After Srila Prabhupada left Moscow in 1971, Ananta-santi Prabhu toiled with faith and dedication to offer the gift of Krsna-bhakti to the Russian people. In a heavily monitored culture marked by the government’s severe opposition to spirituality, he risked his life to preach and teach from the one precious Bhagavad-gita As It Is that Srila Prabhupada’s secretary had left behind.
Ananta-santi Prabhu, and the devotees he cultivated, secretly distributed handwritten copies of the book far and wide, all the while keeping the rapidly spreading Krsna consciousness movement underground.
As Ananta-santi Prabhu’s preaching became more and more successful, the government also began to take note. In the early 1980′s, he was captured by the government and imprisoned. His crime? Unrelenting faith in the instructions of his spiritual master and trying to teach spiritual knowledge and devotion to Lord Krishna. Although he managed to escape from prison, the government persisted and he was caught again, this time, sentenced to an indefinite sentence in a psychiatric facility.
For years, Ananta-santi Prabhu suffered unmentionable torture at the hands of government-employed doctors. Eventually, due to a world-wide campaign, members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness were able to draw attention to his plight and even the Prime Minister of Australia personally requested Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to release Ananta-santi Prabhu.
Today, due to the intense desire of Srila Prabhupada and the sacrifices of Ananta-santi prabhu and those who followed him, Krishna consciousness is being practiced throughout Russia and in many countries of the former Soviet Union.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of devotees congregate together to chant the Holy Names and hear from the same sacred texts that Ananta- santi Prabhu gave years of his life to introduce to his nation.
Innumerable Russian Gaudiya Vaisnavas provide the world with an ideal example of enthusiastically practicing and spreading Krsna consciousness.
For this, we must offer our sincere gratitude at the feet of His Grace
Amidst deep remorse at the loss of his association, we pray at the lotus of Srila Prabhupada that we may have the opportunity to again have Ananta-santi Prabhu’s association in the service of His Divine Grace’s preaching mission.
GBC Executive Committee
PASSING OF ANANTA SHANTI PRABHU
By Hansadutta das
Dear Das and Bhima,
Please accept my most humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada.
This passing away, leaving the body of ANANTA SHANTI PRABHU is very, very sad and unhappy news for me. He is the number one, LEADING PIONEER DEVOTEE of RUSSIA.
After Srila Prabhupada left Russia, Ananta Shanti never saw Srila Prabhupada again in this life. Srila Prabhupafda sent me to Russia and had me secretly bring him Bhagavad gita As It Is, karatals, harmonium and other things.
We would walk the Red Square and over the river bridge, go shopping for bhoga. There was not much to buy – cabbage, potatoes re-constituted milk, a pretty meager selection of eatable ingredients. I would cook, and we would share prasadam, talking for hours and days.
We would go to his small place. Always he put on some record or radio very loud. First time he did this, I asked him why he was doing this. He said the place is probably bugged. Outside, walking on the Square, or bridge, he was always looking here and there and telling me not to talk loud, because we may be under surveillance and being recorded.
I had to take a tour package with fixed hotel and daily tours about the Moscow city. It was difficult and expensive, but the only way Himavati and I could manage to spend some time with Ananta Shanti.
Once he did a daring thing. He came to the dining room at our hotel, pretending to be a student interested in practicing his English. He sat down at our table, with the official tour guide present, and began talking. It was a good trick. On one trip there, Himavati and I brought him a green down jacket. We took some pictures of him and us on the KRASNA-POLSKI Square.
People were really attracted to Himavati, because she was obviously an American, but was speaking Russian fluently (she was born in the Ukraine), and had nicely braided blonde hair and blue eyes.
The alternative to connecting Russia to Prabhupada was flying over Moscow on our way to INDIA, with a one-night stay-over in a Moscow hotel. Everything would be coordinated so that when we were entering the hotel, Ananta Shanti would be exiting. I would put the harmonium, books or whatever down on the ground, and continue to walk, Ananta Shanti would pick these items up, and no one was the wiser.
On one trip the plane was delayed for an hour or more, so instead of just sitting like wooden Indians in the airport, we (about 10 German devotees) decided to have a kirtan. It was amazing. People… guards, airline officials and travelers in general were totally wide-eyed. I thought surely some police or immigration official will stop us from our loud singing and kartals ringing. No one stopped us. I think it must have caught everyone by complete surprise. This continued for about half an hour.
I think this must have been the first Prabhupada disciples’ Sankirtan Party to chant publicly in Russia. You can imagine the exhilaration and joy of the devotees being allowed to sing full volume kirtan, all dressed in robes and shaved up.
I became very attached to Ananta Shanti Prabhu. Every time I was leaving after a visit with him, I would just weep.
I saw him years later in Vrindaban, India, maybe 1991 – 92? He was with some Russian devotees. One was an officer on a military ship, maybe a submarine. We took some video of these gatherings. It was very sweet.
All glories to Ananta Shanti das, the first RUSSIAN disciple of Srila
Prabhupada. Now I can just weep, he was so wonderful.
Your humble servant, Hansadutta das
FROM MUKUNDA GOSWAMI AND DRUTAKARMA DASA
(Published in Back to Godhead Magazine on November 1, 1987)
In 1981, in Kommunist, the official journal of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, Semyon Tsvigun, the Deputy Chairman of the KGB, wrote that “the three greatest threats to the Soviet way of life are Western culture, rock-and-roll music, and Hare Krishna.”
Thus began an era of unprecedented government persecution of the Hare Krsna movement throughout the Soviet Union. With the full backing of Yuri Andropov, the new Soviet leader who had served for years as the KGB chief, the secret police launched an intensive campaign against the Hare Krsna movement. Today, under Gorbachev’s stated policy of glasnost, there is an appearance of a more liberal approach to dissidents in Soviet society. Nevertheless, twenty-three Hare Krsna devotees remain confined in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals, with no signs that they will be soon released.
The first to be arrested was Ananta-santi (Anatoli Fedorovich Pinyayev), the first Soviet Hare Krsna devotee. In September of 1980 Ananta-santi was taken into custody in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and placed in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. At the end of April 1981, he received a phone call from a KGB agent who claimed to be someone calling on behalf of a Western devotee who wanted to see him. When Ananta-santi arrived at the agreed meeting place, he was arrested. He was then held in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks, over the protests of his friends and relatives.
The harassment continued. In June 1981 the secret police framed him with a charge of using “filthy language.” He was sentenced to ten days in prison. Police raided his apartment, threatening his mother and confiscating anything related to Krsna consciousness.
In September 1981, as Ananta-santi was leaving his apartment, he was forced into a police car and taken to the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychiatry. Charges of “parasitism” were lodged against him, but during the course of the legal proceedings he was deemed “not responsible for his actions” and confined to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5, about forty miles outside Moscow. He remained there for five months, when he escaped.
In October of 1982, Ananta-santi was again arrested in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in southern USSR, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital thirty miles away. Two weeks later he was sent back to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5, where he remained confined until March 1983. He was then taken to a prison in Moscow and charged with crimes under Article 227 “Infringement of Person and Rights of Citizens Under Appearance of Performing Religious Ceremonies.”
While awaiting trial, he was confined to the Butyrskaya Investigations Prison. In June 1983 he was tried “in absentia” and found guilty but “nonaccountable” for his crimes. He was therefore sentenced for an “indefinite period of time” to the Smolensk Special Psychiatric Hospital. There he was continually administered haloperidol, a neuroleptic drug that caused convulsions in his facial muscles and deterioration of his mental condition. In April 1986, Ananta-santi was transferred to the Special Psychiatric Hospital in Oryol.
By the time of Ananta-santi’s transfer to Oryol, his case had attracted worldwide attention from Hare Krsna devotees and human rights organizations. Several parcels and hundreds of letters arrived at the psychiatric hospital, where the staff responded by strapping Ananta-santi to his bed and administering sulfazine, a drug that induces a high fever, pain, and hallucinations. This treatment is typical of the abuse undergone by devotees imprisoned in Soviet psychiatric hospitals.
Recently Ananta-santi’s wife asked the doctors when her husband would be released. They replied, “One’s understanding of life and reality are not so quickly cured.”
PREACHING STRATEGY FOR RUSSIA
Room Conversation January 5, 1977, Bombay
Gopala Krsna: Yes, of course if the Russians…
Prabhupada: You can reprint this for distribution here, Russian ships(?).
Gopala Krsna: Russian ship… Yes. The only danger to this will be that if the Russian government finds out that we are translating Russian literature… Because hearing “propaganda” — this is what the Christians do — then they will crack down very hard on our disciples there.
Prabhupada: Where is my disciple there?
Gopala Krsna: Well, only a few you have, Ananta-santi. And they won’t let us go there at all in the future.
Prabhupada: That doesn’t mean we shall not do that.
Gopala Krsna: Then they will think…
Prabhupada: “They’ll think.” It is. Why shall I not do it?
Gopala Krsna: Okay.
Prabhupada: All thinking, actually. We must do it. So where is that card? Bring it. I shall dictate.
Gopala Krsna: That card?
Prabhupada: Your card is…
Gopala Krsna: Yes, that’s on my side. You don’t want that card, do you?
Jagadisa: Yes. He wants to see it.
Prabhupada: It is addressed to you?
Gopala Krsna: Yes. I’ll show it to you. It just says “Happy New Year.” That’s all.
Prabhupada: That’s all right. Still, we have to reply them with this copy.
Gopala Krsna: Okay, very good. So I should take a dictation?
Gopala Krsna: Okay.
Prabhupada: Who has signed that?
Gopala Krsna: That’s from Mr. Yekinova. I had met him in Moscow. He’s now in Delhi with the Russian…
Prabhupada: What he is?
Gopala Krsna: He is a chief of the Russian agency that imports books into Russia.
Prabhupada: Well, so address him.
Gopala Krsna: Yes. “Dear Mr. Yekinova.”
Prabhupada: So it has come from Delhi?
Gopala Krsna: Yes.
Prabhupada: So give the Delhi address, embassy.
Gopala Krsna: Yes. I will… I have told them that we don’t have any Bhaktivedanta Book Trust offices in Bombay, because I did not want them to visit our… I told them our Bhaktivedanta Book Trust office is in Bombay, because then he would have said, “I’ll come and visit you in your office,” and then he would have come to the temple. So we don’t want to show any connection with ISKCON for Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Gopala Krsna: Because then they’ll find out it’s a religion and they will stop it at once.
Prabhupada: As soon as he reads the book, he will find, according to the books.
Gopala Krsna: Well, what I told the Russians was that ISKCON buys all the books from Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Prabhupada: So just keep that position. What is…?
Gopala Krsna: Yes. I mean we have to keep it…
Prabhupada: But we have got pictures of God, and with every page there is Krsna, and how you can hide it? This is another foolishness. Every page, there is Krsna, and there is nothing but Krsna.
Gopala Krsna: But by the time they find out, we are already in the country. For example, if I would have told them about ISKCON before, when I was applying for my visa…
Prabhupada: No, no… Anyway, they may find, early or later. But how you can stop them finding? It is simply impossible(?).
Hari-sauri: Anyway, they expect that something coming from India is going to have something to do with God.
Gopala Krsna: We are saying… What I said that Bhaktivedanta Book Trust is dedicated to publishing books on ancient Indian culture.
Prabhupada: You say like that. Whatever you like, you can say. But when they read the book it is simply…
Jagadisa: Krsna, Krsna.
Prabhupada: … Krsna. That’s all. (chuckles)
Gopala Krsna: Yes, but the scholars, the Russian scholars, know… [break] Prabhupada: They have published their photograph in the paper. They take it, whatever… But the things are already there. So “Dear Mr. such and such, I thank you very much for your greetings card received recently. This cultural movement is depending in future on Russian intelligence and Indian culture. On this cultural movement, recently our Stockholm center has published one book…” What it is written here?
Jagadisa: Easy Journey to Other Planets.
Prabhupada: In Russian language?
Gopala Krsna: Yes.
Jagadisa: I don’t know if I can…
Prabhupada: “Easy Journey to Other Planets. So this is a different culture, how to go to other planetary system, how to transfer the soul from one body to another. In other planets there are also living entities. One can transfer himself, after giving up this body, to anywhere he likes without any help of the sputnik…
Hari-sauri: (dictating to Gopala Krsna) “… himself, after giving up this body…”
Prabhupada: “… and without the help of the sputnik or any flying machine. This is the mystic system unknown to the world, but it is authorized in the Vedas, original culture of the human civilization.”
Gopala Krsna: “… is authorized in the Vedas…”
Hari-sauri: It’s on the tape. I’m recording it too.
Prabhupada: So, “A preliminary booklet is presented herewith to your good self. Kindly read it carefully and let me know your reaction. We are prepared to answer all intricate questions in this ques…, in this subject.” In this way present.
Gopala Krsna: Fine. I have made a lot of friends in Russia. I was going to send them. Only problem… Actually, I’ll tell you what’s happening with my correspondence with Russia. The Russian spying agency is so strong, they’re not letting my letters get through, because…
Prabhupada: Then don’t send. What is the use of sending?
Gopala Krsna: Yes. Actually what I was thinking of was, in my letters…
Prabhupada: First of all see one man. Test.
Gopala Krsna: Yes. I was going to mention to him in my letter that I’m surprised how I’m not getting replies to my letters from the people I visited in Russia.
Prabhupada: Why? Why you should inquire from him? If you know that there is difficulty, why should you inquire?
Gopala Krsna: Well, he can then have his Moscow address office get me the replies.
Prabhupada: Why? Why you are anxious to get their reply? Their country is like that. Why? Yes. Why should you bother and strain your brain unnecessarily?
Gopala Krsna: Okay.
Prabhupada: You should know they are all rascals. That’s all. But here we
get an opportunity. You can write, present that to…
Gopala Krsna: Yes.
Prabhupada: Where is the other book?
Jagadisa: Have we got two?
Gopala Krsna: Oh. So I can take one. And I can order some more from
Stockholm and send them to these people as gift.
Prabhupada: No, they can send directly. They can write under instruction.
Gopala Krsna: Okay. Okay. That’s okay.
LEST WE FORGET
Excerpts from a letter written By Indradyumna Swami on June 5, 2013.
Dear Ananta-santi Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to
It was with great sadness that I learned of your recent departure. I rarely, if ever, express any deep emotion, but upon hearing of your demise I broke down and cried, for you have always been a true hero to me. By the Lord’s arrangement, you met our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, on his first visit to the former Soviet Union in June, 1971. Knowing your heart, he initiated you after only a few days and instructed you to spread Lord Caitanya’s movement throughout your country. Srila Prabhupada’s confidence in you was revealed when he said of you, “Just as you can
judge whether rice is properly cooked by picking out one small grain, so you can know an entire nation by observing one of its handpicked youths.”
With Srila Prabhupada’s blessings you fearlessly proceeded to spread the holy names around the Soviet Union, often at great risk. Your effort was initially single-handed, but you made devotees and soon their preaching was causing great alarm amongst the communist leaders of the time… Being acutely affected by the inhumane treatment you received in prison, you drifted away from devotional service and the association of devotees for some time. No one should hold this against you, however, for it was clearly the result of the hideous drugs administered to you during your confinement. In recent years, you re-established loving relationships with
many devotees and took up the practice of Krsna consciousness again.
My dear godbrother, Ananta-santi, I have no doubt that upon leaving your body you were delivered straight to the spiritual world where Srila Prabhupada personally received you and engaged you in service. Surely the residents of that transcendental abode must have arranged a magnificent festival to honor you on that day. Certainly you deserved it. The sacrifices you made in spreading Krsna consciousness, the suffering you underwent in executing that mission, and the determination you displayed to serve the order of our spiritual master are rare even amongst Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
May all Vaisnavas know of your exploits. May they honor the pain you endured and the faith you regained despite all efforts by communist authorities to destroy it. Lest we forget, may we constantly remember your unique contribution to Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement. From your transcendental position please look down upon this humble soul and grant me the same courage that you had to spread the glories of the holy names far and wide despite the greatest opposition.
With the deepest respect and admiration,