Photo by: Ananta Vrindavan
Krishna and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance
by: Rohini-suta dasa (Ronald E. Boutelle)
Due to his father’s military career, as a young boy the author grew up in different locations around the world—Alaska, Southern California, Great Britain, and the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. By the age of sixteen both his mother and younger brother had died in separate accidents, leaving his older sister greatly concerned for his well-being.
There are some who say that his sister’s marriage to H. Charles Berner (who, next to L. Ron Hubbard, was Scientology’s most honored and skilled practitioner) tainted her “motherly” intentions with a deep passion to convert her younger brother. But no one could ever doubt that she meant well.
After studying at a forestry college near Lake Placid, New York, once again Southern California became Ron’s home. By then both Charles and Ava had renounced Scientology. Starting in 1965, the next four years were spent helping his sister and Charles organize the Institute of Ability. Ron became one of its founding members and eventually graduated from its seminary, located high in the Sierra Mountains.
Between 1973 and 1976, after serving in the military during the Vietnam War, Ron enjoyed various occupations – working as an instructor at the Institute of Ability, caretaker, kitchen manager, and the owner of the Adirondack Wheel Works. This popular bicycle shop was located in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Then in 1977, Ronald E. Boutelle was initiated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya (spiritual master) of the Hare Krishna movement and was given the name, Rohini-suta dasa. His next four years were spent as an aide to Ganapati Swami, one of ISKCON’s (International Society For Krishna Consciousness) most capable leaders.
For the next two years Rohini was given the responsibility of managing the first Hare Krishna restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. At that time the St. Louis temple was enjoying the sumptuous cooking of Chota Haridasa and together Rohini and Chota formed a highly successful team. Govinda’s Restaurant became an overnight hit.
From 1979 through 1980, Rohini held the position as “head cook” at ISKCON’s Chicago temple.
Moving to Hare Krishna temple located in Dallas, Texas, at the end of 1980, Rohini began his new life in Texas by completely remodeling their kitchen. With the outstanding success of Govinda’s Restaurant still fresh in his mind and the obvious need for a restaurant at the temple, Rohini-suta presented his plans for Kalachandji’s Restaurant to the temple authorities. Later that year the project officially got under way. To this day, Kalachandji’s Restaurant is a famous landmark in Dallas. In 2012 Kalachandji’s Restaurant was voted by the Dallas Observer as the city's best restaurant Rohini-suta was its first manager and cook.
In 1983 Rohini settled down on a ranch near San Marcos, Texas, following his marriage to Brigitte Calippe. He also opened the Blue Ribbon Gallery in San Antonio. In 1986 early drafts of Krishna and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance were begun.
In 1988, Rohini moved to Denver, Colorado, again traveling with his former supervisor, Ganapati Swami. Their college tour took them from northern Michigan to as far south as Tucson, Arizona.
Asked to manage an existing meals-on-wheels program in Denver, in 1989 the author purchased a 1963 Ford step-van, converting it into a mobile kitchen to feed the homeless. Working under the banner of the Hare Krishna Food For Life program, eventually this project was expanded to also provide hot food for the needy at various inner-city shelters located in Denver. This program is still going on today, providing thousands of meals every month.
During this same period, Rohini was asked to publish the first Food For Life Newsletter, seeking to further unify the Hare Krishna worldwide effort to feed the homeless. In recognition for his humanitarian work, on January 15, 1992, Rohini’s work with the homeless was recognized by President Bush’s, White House Points of Light Office as, “an example of outstanding community service.”
But it wasn’t until after responding with hot meals at the site of a devastating tornado that Rohini’s humanitarian ambitions became clear—feeding victims of disasters and providing nutritious meals to the professional men and women who respond to them.
From his military training, Rohini was well aware of the “chain of command” and immediately embarked on a mission to learn about the existing emergency-relief organizations and the various command structures he hoped to work with. He joined COVOAD (Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), discovered FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), made friends within the American Red Cross, and took several classes on disaster preparedness. Besides helping to feed firemen at a huge fire at Stapelton International Airport, Rohini also passed out hot meals to the U. S. Army at the site of a tragic airplane crash in Colorado Springs.
As the overwhelming importance of all of this settled in, in 1991 Rohini-suta dasa founded Krishna Disaster Relief. As Rohini mentioned in a letter to one of his supporters:
“We can all see from the recent affects of Hurricane Andrew that natural disasters also create homeless people. So do wars, famine, and earthquakes as we have seen happen in Hati and other places.
“Part of Shrila Prabhupada’s message to me was to help feed the unfortunate. This just rings a loud bell inside me and I would very much like to see the Hare Krishna movement take a leading role in this type of humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, remember that Lord Krishna is also the greatest hero. Since everyone loves a hero, here is the perfect formula to achieve the mission of Shrila Prabhupada. He simply wanted the whole world to love Krishna. As I see it, showing the world, over and over and over again, Lord Krishna coming to the rescue in times of disaster with hot food, is not only a much needed service to humanity but the perfect way to achieve the appreciation for Lord Krishna that we all seek.
“Of course, this has to be done in a very professional manner, and in complete cooperation with the proper authorities. Already the Hare Krishna movement is doing this work, but we need to be better organized to increase our effectiveness.”
Rohini’s last face-to-face service with the homeless was in Philadelphia, PA, where he was in charge of feeding homeless veterans. It was there that he also finished writing this book.
After being asked by the director of the Hare Krishna Food for Life program to write a book about Krishna Disaster Relief, in 1997, Lord Krishna in the 21st Century was begun.
With the new millennium approaching and seeing an opportunity, at the stroke of midnight, the first edition of Krishna and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance was published by CyberSubsidiary to become the first book of the 21st century.
Ronald E. Boutelle (Rohini-suta dasa) now lives in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas where he continues to write, having recently finished, Abandoned, a religious thriller about an American soldier in Vietnam and the incredible events that drew him closer to God. To read this free book, Go to: Abandoned