Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Remembering Sudharma Devi Dasi – Update: Memorial Details Added
By ISKCON News   |  Jun 15, 2024
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From Sudharma Devi Dasi’s godsister Pranada Comtois: “Our dear friend and valiant servant of Srila Prabhupada, Sudharma dasi, has left us just after 11:00 pm EDT on June 14, 2024, in Alachua, FL, from cardiac arrest. Sudharma devi dasi took initiation from Srila Prabhupada in 1976. In her nearly 50 years of devotional life, she served as a sankirtana devotee, sankirtana leader, temple board member in Philadelphia and Alachua temples, temple president in the Philippines, itinerant preacher in the Pacific Northwest and in Southeast Asia, where she helped to develop congregational communities from devotees homes. She developed and managed the book distribution at Srila Prabhupada’s Palace in New Vrindavan, where she personally distributed hundreds of Srila Prabhupada’s books each week.

She served as the ISKCON Communications Director for North America, a member of the ISKCON Foundation, the founder of the North American and International GBC Women’s Ministry (now known as the Vaishnavi Ministry), and a North American GBC / TP Executive Officer for six years.

She established and ran the after-school program at the Alachua Learning Academy for several years, developing many elaborate programs, field trips, and other activities for the children, whom she truly loved.

She was the wife of Sundararupa Prabhu, who was initiated in 1974 and served as a preacher in our movement, passing away in 2008. She had two daughters. Prema is working on her PhD at the University of Florida, while her older sister Braja graduated with a Master’s Degree from Goddard College in Vermont.

Even though she has been very ill for the past few years, Sudharma developed a radio platform but was not able to fulfill the broad vision she had for the project. She felt a great deal of gratitude and affection for Srila Prabhupada and the devotees for her services, association, meditations, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Sudharma lived on a fixed income that didn’t always cover her medical expenses, so there are no funds for the cremation or memorial. We would also like to extend some help to her daughters, who are both without their father. If we can collect more than the target, it will greatly help Prema. Thank you in advance for helping give this special Vaishnavi a proper farewell. To make a donation, click here. See below for Memorial details.

You can watch a wonderful interview Sudharma did with Amrita-Keli Dasi on the Nectar Talks podcast. She shares very powerful details of her story and service, click here to listen.

A recent gathering of Vaishnavis in Alachua, Florida. Sudhama seated on the couch, far left.

From her godsister Rukmini Walker: “Our dear precious sister, Sudharma Prabhu has left this world. She was brilliant in all the many services she rendered to Srila Prabhupada’s mission- from distributing books in far-flung places in the world to fighting for personalism in ISKCON and the upliftment of women’s voices and the compassionate care for women, children, and all who are vulnerable. She was a tireless voice for caring more carefully, and for righting the wrongs and correcting the failures in our ISKCON community. Now she is in Lord Krsna’s embrace. Wherever Prabhupada is, she is there too.

Sudharma Prabhu will be sorely missed by all those who loved her and by all those whose lives were touched and changed by her example of loving, selfless care, and radical personalism. Be blessed, dear sister, on your journey back home!

Your sister, servant, and admirer, Rukmini.”

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From Radha Devi Dasi, ISKCON Vaishnavi Ministry,  “I first met Sudharma Devi in the early 1990s when she was on the executive committee for the North American GBC.  She opened many doors for Vaishnavis in North America in terms of leadership and other kinds of service and created sanga for us as well.  She and others started the first Vaishnavi Ministry in North America in the early 1990s, and she was instrumental in the establishment of the International Vaishnavi Ministry in 1996.

Sudharma’s contribution to the Ministry is beyond my ability to describe but is perhaps best summed up in a GBC resolution which she drafted and which was passed in 1996 and which states in part: “ISKCON is a family where everyone should feel welcome. Although temple environments may differ, the underlying principle of facilitating ladies’ sadhana must remain, based on an attitude of encouragement and respect” (1996.103).

Sudharma certainly treated devotees as her family and encouraged everyone she came into contact with to serve Srila Prabhupada.  Her activism took place publicly and was well known.  What may not be so well known and what was arguably even more influential is the way she facilitated the service of others.  She opened doors for Vaishnavis (and Vaishnavas) everywhere she went and was always more concerned with whether others had proper facilities for their service before her own needs.

Sudharma served as the International Vaishnavi Minister from 1996 to the mid-2000s and was a trusted advisor for many years.  We will definitely feel the loss of her guidance!

My personal observation is that Sudharma exemplified Vedic motherhood.  She was a loving mother to her own two daughters but she was also a loving mother to all the devotees she guided, mentored, and helped to grow in Krishna consciousness.  In our last conversation, she reminded me that ISKCON is a family and she encouraged the Vaishnavi Ministry to support the service of all devotees.  As she put it, everyone has something to offer Srila Prabhupada, and as the mothers in ISKCON, we can offer support and help to everyone in their service to him.

I can’t express how greatly her loss will impact the Vaishnavi Ministry as she was our advisor and supporter for many years.  On a personal note, the loss of her love and friendship will make my life that much poorer.”

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From her godbrother Anuttama Dasa, “Sudharma Dasi and I worked together for years on various ISKCON projects in North America and globally. She was a leader of Communications in North America, the first Minister of the Vaishnavi Ministry (previously Women’s Ministry), and we served together for many years as Co-Officers of the North American Executive Team, along with (at various times) Romapada Swami and Bir Krishna Goswami. 

Sudharma was one of the most conscientious and systematic leaders I’ve known. She was thoughtful, focused, and always ready to take on new challenges. She was an expert in interacting with people outside ISKCON. Consequently, when she lived in Washington, D.C., she held a leadership role in the animal rights movement. 

One of the many things that impressed me about Sudharma was her ability to work equally well with male and female leaders. Some of us lack that skill. It was especially lacking in ISKCON’s past. I asked her once how she was so successful in networking with both genders. She said, “It’s easy when I’m with women leaders, I ask them: ‘How do you feel about that?’ And, when I’m with male leaders, I ask: ‘What do you think about that?'” (I find that quite profound. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But, next time you’re with a group of men, ask them how they feel about a particular topic, lila, or experience. You will be amazed at how many blank stares you get back). 

Sudharma has faced several health challenges over the last few years. My wife, Rukmini, and I would visit Sudharma whenever we were in Alachua, Florida, where she resided. I was always amazed that despite the personal obstacles she faced, she was always concerned about Srila Prabhupada’s movement and how the leadership was responding to the latest issues. She would express laser-focused insights on underlying issues and offer possible solutions to every problem. 

Sudharma was an ISKCON pioneer in many ways. She was a role model of conscientious leadership. Young Hare Krishna women, especially, can look to her as an example of an engaged Vaishnavi who worked as an equal to men in an era when that was less than common. She was highly respected by all for her intelligence, strategic skills, and loyalty to ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, and her fellow Vaishnavas. 

Sudharma fought for full opportunity for women (as well as other important issues). She did not give up, even when the culture and systems of the day didn’t fully support her.  

Thank you Sudharma. You were a noble soul, a gallant soldier, and an exemplary leader for Srila Prabhupada. You earned your seat at the ISKCON leadership table. We were fortunate to have you there. 

 Your servant,  Anuttama Dasa.”

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Details of Her Grace Sudharma Dasi’s Memorial Service

Sunday June 30th, 1pm to 4pm EDT. A feast in her honor to follow at 5:30pm.

Devotees can watch the live broadcast on YouTube: www.youtube.com/@alachuatemple

Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/alachuatemple

or join the Zoom call: us02web.zoom.us/j/6706942056?omn=83959620547

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