Rasikanam Das, a young Russian kirtaniya who was well known for his dedication to chanting Krishna’s Holy Names, passed away at the age of 32 due to heart trouble after he felt weak while leading a Harinam in the town of Sarapul, Russia.
Although Rasikanam left this world on February 24th, 2015, the details of his extraordinary life and passing have just come into ISKCON News through an interview with his widow Narasimhi Dasi.
Born May 26th, 1982 to his mother Irina Nokolaevna and father Pyotr Vasilyevich in the city of Krasnodar, Russia, Rasikanam was searching for the meaning of life from a very young age.
At 13, he was studying Christianity, but found that it didn’t answer all his questions and began looking within his heart for more answers. At 15, he was writing letters to God of a depth that contradicted his age. Along with his father, whom he was very close to, he studied literature and various Russian spiritualists.
In 2006, at the age of 24, he and a friend met ISKCON devotees while living near the town of Anapa on the coast of the Black Sea. The devotees asked them to come help out at the major festival “Sadhu Sanga” that was being held nearby.
“And by the mercy of Lord Nityananda, they came every day to peel potatoes,” says Narasimhi. “And as they did, Rasikanam said, they peeled the dirt from their hearts.”
Rasikanam began reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, and quickly realized that they were what he had been looking for his whole life. He shaved his long blond dreadlocks and became a devotee, in a transformation “from hippy to happy” that is recreated in the short film “spiritual flight.”
He served in various temples in Russia, cleaning, cooking, and chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra in public, which quickly became his main service.
In 2010, Narasimhi was singing at a program with their mutual guru Chaitanya Chandra Charan Prabhu. She had noticed Rasikanam playing guitar beforehand, so she asked him to accompany her.
“He was not a professional musician according to the dictionary definition of the word – he didn’t finish music school,” says Narasimhi. “But the way he played guitar, I feel like he must have had a very serious education in music in his past life. I do have an education in music and I can’t improvise the way he did.”
A short film recreating Rasikanam finding Krishna consciousness
In May 2013, Rasikanam and Narasimhi were married. For a lot of their married life, however, they didn’t see much of each other. Rasikanam loved to travel and sing the Holy Name, and his kirtan leading skills were hugely in demand from Harinam tour organizers.
“From the beginning, I understood who I was marrying,” Narasimhi says. “I didn’t try to make him stay at home.”
With senior devotees like Valmiki Das and Nimi Dasi, Rasikanam travelled constantly on Padayatra tours throughout the Black Sea Coast, Europe, Thailand, and India, even going on a Himalayan tour.
With his youthful energy and bright, friendly smile, his ever-present accordion, and his sweet, melodious voice, Rasikanam was like the transcendental pied piper. Passersby who saw him chanting would stop and stare, open-mouthed. Then they’d start dancing, even serious businessmen in suits jumping and spinning around with him. Then they’d follow the Harinam party back to the temple, take prasadam, and buy books. Many became devotees.
Rasikanam’s guru commented that he “chanted the Holy Names purely.” Everyone wanted to work with him because he was humble, patient, determined and easy to deal with.
Rasikanam never took up a conventional job and would often say, “I cannot do anything except chant Hare Krishna.”
Rasikanam leading kirtan
Despite his constant travelling, Narasimhi had a very close connection with her husband and felt protected and cared for by him. He would stay at home for a few months in between Padayatra tours, and they would often sing together at Vaishnava festivals. In 2014, he was to spend a full year with her to record a CD – a plan which sadly never came to fruition.
Rasikanam followed a very strict routine of spiritual practice, reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam, offering puja to Srila Prabhupada, and worshipping his beloved Tulasi plant every morning. Yet he didn’t push Narasimhi to do the same. Instead, he would entreat her in a heartfelt way to “Chant the Holy Name!” or suggest that she read a verse a day. This mood encouraged her to do more than what he asked.
“His sincere desire was to go back to Krishna, and to take me with him,” she says.
Rasikanam also treated his parents with great affection and love, calling and talking to them very often. As a result, they also became practicing devotees.
Although his life in Krishna consciousness was a short one, all of it was spent chanting the Holy Names and beseeching others to chant, up until the very last minute.
On the morning of February 23rd, 2015, Rasikanam felt fine when he went out to lead a Harinam in Sarapul with devotees from the nearby city of Izhevsk. For nearly three hours, the devotees chanted and danced while Rasikanam called out the Hare Krishna mantra with all his usual enthusiasm.
Everything seemed just right. Although it was a cold time of year, it was an unusually bright, sunny day. Devotees were distributing books, and everyone seemed to want one. The kirtan built to a uniquely ecstatic peak, with devotees jumping and pinwheeling and roaring out the Holy Names. Later, some said it had felt like they were in the spiritual world itself.
Rasikanam and Narasimhi
Then, suddenly, Rasikanam stopped singing. He sat down, clutching his heart and saying that his fingers felt numb. Devotees surrounded him, giving him water to drink and massaging him. When he grew paler, they called an ambulance. The paramedics confirmed he had had a heart attack.
At the hospital, doctors would not let his wife into his room, but did pass on to him the chanting beads and photos of his guru and Srila Prabhupada that she had brought. They told Narasimhi that the situation was serious, and that it was unlikely he would survive.
“I was shocked,” she says. “It was very unexpected. He was very hardy, and would chant in all kinds of conditions. Nobody ever thought he had a weak heart.”
Later, Rasikanam’s friend Vrikadara was allowed to enter the ward to sprinkle some Ganga water on his body and place a Tulasi leaf in his mouth.
At 1:00am on the morning of the 24th, the hospital called Narasimhi to tell her her husband had passed away. Later, doctors told Vrikadara that before passing, Rasikanam had been looking at the pictures of his guru and Srila Prabhupada and chanting on his beads. He had also been talking to them about about Prabhupada and Krishna to the very end.
When he left, there was a smile on his face.
In the morning, when devotees from Izhevsk came to pay their last farewells, he was dressed in Vaishnava robes, and his body was covered with Tulasi leaves.
According to the instructions of their guru, Narasimhi is now compiling a book, entitled “Remember…” of Rasikanam’s inspirational letters to her. She is also finishing the music CD they were working on together, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” Both are due out this year.
Through both of them, perhaps devotees all over the world will get to know Rasikanam, who dedicated the last few years of his life to giving the joy of God’s Holy Names to others.
And perhaps we can all remember the smile that was on his face when he passed -- and the reason why it was there.
“The fact is, we don’t really believe that Krishna loves us, and that’s why we’re afraid to surrender unto Him, and why we have so many problems,” says Narasimhi. “ But Rasikanam had very strong faith that Krishna loves him very much.”
She quotes Rasikanam: “I don’t believe myself, but I believe in Krishna. Krishna will arrange everything in the most perfect way.”[ kirtana ] [ rasika-nam ] [ russia ]