Dear Disciples of Bhakti Charu Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupad.
When I heard the news of Maharaja having tested positive for COVID-19, I was left speechless. Daily at that time of the morning I am on a zoom Japa conference. I made the announcement to the participants in much disbelief. I checked again with my disciples if this message was in fact authentic and a part of me feverishly hoped that there was some error or this was just fake news. I could not concentrate on any of my services and had difficulty in following the daily routine for the rest of the day and several days thereafter. I was very disturbed and disheartened. All that I could think of was Bhakti Caru Maharaja and went deeply into thoughts and prayers for his recovery.
And eventually I heard the news which I was dreading. Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja had departed and I immediately thought about how Bhakti Caru Maharaja had helplessly wept at Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi, ready to sacrifice his life alongside that of Srila Prabhupada – such was his intense grief after the departure of his spiritual master. In all of his lamentations in separation from his Guru Maharaja, lovingly remembering him and serving him in separation (vipralambha seva) only intensified this relationship and increased his services over the years. Following in the footsteps of your beloved Guru Maharaja may you also solidify your relationship with Maharaja and expand your services by following his example and instructions.
In lamenting Maharaja’s departure, I had this intense desire just to hear Maharaja once again, to feel his close presence, and I regretted not having the foresight to record our last telephonic conversation just before he left for America. Bhakti Caru Maharaja had just finished watching ‘The Lost Village’ documentary. Maharaja had called me and said to me, “I got to know you better.” In his inspired self, he excitedly suggested that I refresh and relaunch ‘The Lost Village’ production because he saw the relevance of its content for the COVID-19 pandemic. The two of us had resolved to communicate more regularly over the phone and meet and spend some quality time together as well. Maharaja had also accepted my invitation to visit Pandharpur. I was really looking forward to that visit and now under the new scenario this could only happen on another realm.
Following his departure I wanted to hear some of Maharaja’s bhajans or lectures and to my great surprise the first bhajan which I came across was “Je anilo prema dhana” which Maharaja had sung on the Disappearance day of one of our predecessor acaryas. As his soothing voice filled the room I felt really close to him. I had a strong momentary feeling that Maharaja is right here and that he had never left. Listen to Maharaja’s sweet singing and enlivening talks. From my experience I would also advise you to remember the times you have spent with Maharaja giving you general or specific instructions and make a plan to follow the same and you will feel his presence and his company forever. As Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, “He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art living still in sound! The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to spread the holy name around!”
As I searched for further closeness to Bhakti Caru Swami, I was sharply conscious of all the anguish and pain that you, his spiritual children must be feeling. My heart goes out to all of you. Your loss is our loss. Your grief is our grief. Your tears are our tears. We are one family and together in this. Some have lost their spiritual father; some have lost their spiritual uncle; and some their god brother. Everybody in the family has lost ‘someone special.’ There is an unprecedented influx of glorifications, remembrances, memories of and prayers for our exalted Bhakti Caru Maharaja and certainly sympathy and support for you all. Please be assured that this all-pervading consciousness will remain with us through the legacy that your Guru Maharaja has left behind, his pure love for his spiritual master, ISKCON Founder Acarya, Srila Prabhupada and his desire to spread the Hare Krishna movement everywhere. In the case of Maharaja, soldiering on as a frontline fighter preacher especially in areas where the pandemic was most rampant. Following in the footsteps of his spiritual master, he boldly travelled to America in spite of the odds and departed a martyr, a true soldier of Srila Prabhupada, where he strongly believed he was most needed during these perilous times.
On that unfortunate last day I spoke to Prana Govinda Prabhu from Alachua on the phone who at that time was rushing to the hospital where Bhakti Caru Maharaja was being nursed. He was en route and he shared with much anxiety whether he was going to reach the hospital in time to speak to Maharaja. Arrangements had been made for him, facilitating this meeting with Maharaja. Since Maharaja could only listen, he asked me, “Is there anything you would like me to convey to Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja?” I told him, “Please, please beg Maharaja not to leave us behind. He must recover early and join us again, and be amongst us because we are already missing him so much. I continued my conversation with Prana Govinda Prabhu, “And if Krsna wants to bring Maharaja back to Him, then my message on behalf of all our god brothers and god sisters and senior leaders was: “Please convey to Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja that he may leave peacefully, happily, and we will take care of his managerial responsibilities, continue his legacy and especially take care of his direct disciples.” This was my message and promise to your Guru Maharaja. You need to know that you are not alone. You never were and never will be. You have a family of loving and caring spiritual masters, godbrothers and godsisters, senior leaders and god cousins to whom you can turn for comfort and relief.
I will always cherish Maharaja’s memories and my loving dealings with him and will humbly endeavour to fulfil my heartfelt promise to your Guru Maharaja to the best of my ability, to ensure that all will be taken care of as he had envisaged.
Your servant in service to your spiritual master, Lokanath Swami