In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Shri Krishna explains,
janma karma ca me divyam
evaà yo vetti tattvataù
tyaktvä dehaà punar janma
naiti mäm eti so ‘rjuna
‘One who understands the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities never attains…never has to take birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode.’ Those divine personalities who come to distribute the treasure of prema bhakti, the emissaries of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their lila is of the same nature as the Supreme Truth. Therefore, one who understands the divine nature of the appearance, activities and disappearance of the great souls, they never have to take birth again in this material world. Because such great personalities, their lives are cent percent dedicated in the loving service of the Lord. Therefore, the Lord reveals Himself, reveals His divine lila into this world through their words and through their actions. Just as Srila Prabhupada used to tell us, ‘That as Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the spiritual master is the supreme personality of servitude Godhead.’
We Celebrate Both, Appearance & Disappearace:
On the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila Prabhupada taught us how to observe this day of the disappearance of the Guru. He explained that there is no difference between appearance and disappearance on the spiritual level. Because, for such divine realized souls who are in contact with the eternal soul, there coming and going into this world are both only for the benefit of those who love them. Of course, on the appearance there is usually a great celebration and on the disappearance there is the celebration of tears – a celebration in the mood of separation. Appearance means unity, meeting, coming together and disappearance means the pains of separation. Krishna sometimes is known as Madan Mohan. One definition of this Madan means meeting and Mohan means separation. So Krishna teaches us to love Him through meeting with us and then through casting us into the realm of separation.
No Reason To Live Further Without You “Gurudev”.
But Only For Your Instructions, Your Words & Your Mission.
Seeing The Examples:
Raghunath Das Goswami:
In the life of Raghunath Das Goswami, we find how a devotee feels on the disappearance of the Lord of his life. Raghunath Das Goswami, when Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Swarupa Damodar Goswami, his Guru and life, disappeared from this world, he offered prayers, he felt so much bereft, he had no reason to go on living. In fact, he made vow to go to Vrindavan and to jump from the Govardhan hill to commit suicide. And when he went to Vrindavan, he revealed his heart through beautiful writings. He explains that the Govardhan hill, such a beautiful beautiful manifestation of Krishna, now that my Gurudeva is gone, when I look like…when I look at Govardhan hill, it appears to be a great serpent for it is coming to devour me. When I look at Radha Kund and Shyam Kund , when I look at the sky, everything around is only reminding me of the great pains that is within my heart. So in this way, Raghunath Das saw the whole world as nothing but a dread void in the absence of his spiritual master. In fact, Srila Prabhupada explains in the Bhagavatam that when the spiritual master leaves us, it is the duty of the devotee to weep in separation. To see the world as dread void in the absence of the Lord of our life.
So in this way Raghunath Das illustrated to us how to love our Guru. But then it is explained that he met Rupa and Sanatana. And Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis reminded Ragunath, of the order of the words of his spiritual master – to glorify the Holy Name of Krishna, to reveal to the world the teachings and the glories of his Gurudeva. And upon hearing this Raghunath Das gained life, gained determination and gained purpose to remain in this world simply as a missionary of the spirit of his spiritual master.
And we find the same situation in the case of Arjuna in the Srimad Bhagavatam. After Lord Shri Krishna left this world, when Arjuna returned to Hastinapura, he was pale white, weeping tears, he saw no reason to live. This world is a place of ignorance. Anyone who is attached to doing anything in this world is simply the most unfortunate animal. The purpose of life is simply to serve and to love our Guru and Krishna. And in the absence of our Guru and Krishna what do we want in this crazy world of birth and death, of envy, lust and pride for? So Arjuna feeling this great great pain of separation in his heart he didn’t know what to do – perhaps to give up his life. And he began to reveal his life to Maharaja Yudhishthira. But then he remembered the words of Krishna. He remembered the vani, the order of Krishna that He gave him while standing between the two armies on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. And that gave him strength. In remembrance in the words of his Gurudeva he felt the divine presence of his Gurudeva more than ever before and to serve those instructions gave him a reason to live – more of a reason than he ever had before throughout his life.
And in the life of our own beloved Guru Maharaja, Om Vishnupada Paramhansa Shri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we find that same intensity of love. Srila Prabhupada would tell us that in the absence of his spiritual master he was wondering why go on living? This world is a dread void. But, he remembered the words of his spiritual master. His Guru Maharaja told him that you are intelligent, young man – preach in the English language all over the world this wonderful message of Shri Caitanya. He told him that on their first meeting and just within a month before he left his body. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur wrote that letter to Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada knew that he was perhaps going to leave this world, so he wrote a letter to his Guru Maharaj in Jagannath Puri and he said you have so many disciples, who are sannyasis and brahmacharis, who are serving you so nicely – day and night. I am a very fallen soul, I am very distant from you. Please tell me how I can serve you. And just days before his departure, Srila Prabhupada received this letter that you take this message of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and spread it through the world in the English language.
So when Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati left, Srila Prabhupada had one thing to hold on to – the instruction of his spiritual master. And Srila Prabhupada would tell us that not even one moment went by in his life when he was not intimately feeling the presence of his Guru Maharaj within his heart. Because through the divine sound of vani or the instruction of Guru, the Guru lives with us forever. During Srila Prabhupada’s life, he would many times warn us that we should not be so much attached to the vapu or the physical form of the Guru. The physical form of the spiritual master is here to give us the opportunity to render personal service, but the sound vibration of his words, the sound of his instructions is the eternal connection that he grants us to the entire parampara, the disciplic line of great spiritual masters back to Krishna Himself. And in fact, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur has engraved on the Samadhi mandir of Haridas Thakur, that the great Vaishnavas, they live for ever through sound vibration. When Srila Prabhupada would quote Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, Narottam Das Thakur, Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami, Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunath he was not simply like a scholar quoting some scholastic passages of the past, but he was experiencing and granting us the experience of the intimate personal association of these great personalities. And that is the great gift of spiritual life that in spiritual life there is no birth and there is no death. These great souls are eternally living and granting us their association form their sound vibration.
Remember The Mission & Instruction:
So on this day of disappearance of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we should know how we can become an intimate associate of Srila Prabhupada. How we can live within our hearts in his personal presence, heart full of surrender of the true association of the great souls.
So, really in essence on these days of disappearance what we are doing is that we are taking the opportunity to intensify our remembrance of the mission and instruction so that the great souls can always be appearing within our heart. On the disappearance day of Srila Prabhupada, he is so mercifully, more than any other time is granting us the opportunity to allow him to appear within our minds, within our hearts and within our lives, but we must be attentively willing to hear his message to associate with his devotees.
Become Servant Of The Servant:
When we chant the Holy Names,
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
with an attentive and sincere heart we should know that Srila Prabhupada is with us because it is his instruction and when we serve, or when you serve your spiritual master, when you hear from him, when you execute his order, you should know that this is the greatest and most intimate way that you can associate with Srila Prabhupada, because it is his order that we become the servant of the servant of the servant in disciplic succession. Many people within the Hare Krishna movement have an unfortunate conception that to associate with Srila Prabhupada is to be ‘Prabhupada’s man’, which means to talk about him, to remember him, to teach people also directly how to serve him. But this is not the order of Guru. The order of the Guru is to become the servant of the servant of the servant in disciplic succession. This is in essence again being attached to the vapu more than the vani. Therefore, by serving the present acharya or spiritual master in the disciplic line by hearing from him, by hearing from the beloved servants of Srila Prabhupada, by serving their order factually we are more intimately associating with Srila Prabhupada than trying to simply remember him directly. And Srila Prabhupada taught in his own life.
So, on this very very auspicious day we should not desire to enjoy Srila Prabhuapda, we should desire to be enjoyed by Srila Prabhupada. To be enjoyed by those who are near and dear to him, to be enjoyed by his servants and the servant of his servants. This is bhakti.
Who Is The Confidential Servant:
On the disappearance day of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, I remember one year Srila Prabhupada began to cry remembering his Guru Maharaj, remembering his mercy upon him and then he pleaded with all of us and he said that my Guru Maharaj has given me this mission to spread the glories of the Holy Name throughout the world. He said I am very old man and at any time I could die, but my urgent and humble request to all of you is under all circumstances to give your lives to push on this merciful mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He said you are all intelligent young boys and girls. Work very hard to push on this mission. And those who accept this instruction, they are the true confidential associates of Srila Prabhupada. And those who assist those who are taking this instruction as their life and soul are equally intimate associates of Srila Prabhupada. This is the essence of spiritual life. Hare Krishna.
Iam Not Perfect, But Iam Following The Perfect:
To deliver the message of his Guru Maharaj. There are certain schools of spirituality where the Guru claims to be God, but in the school of bhakti we never find this. Srila Prabhupada would tell us that the only qualification that he had was that he is simply repeating the message of his Guru without adulteration. I remember one time a newspaper reporter asked Srila Prabhupada, ‘Are you perfect?’ Then Srila Prabhupada, with great humility, from the core of his heart, he said, ‘I am not perfect. But I am simply repeating the words of my Guru Maharaj and those words are perfect. Why? because my Guru Maharaj is simply repeating the words of Krishna.’ oà pürëam adaù pürëam idaà [Ishopanishad Invocation] – means all perfect. So our qualification should never be to be a big scholar or to be an advanced devotee. A bhakta never aspires to be an advanced devotee. A bhakta simply aspires for the position of being the peon, the menial servant delivering the message of his spiritual master. And to have no other purpose in life except that. To have no other motivation for anything we do except that. And this was Srila Prabhupada’s great gift that he took this divine message of pure love, pure bhakti throughout the entire world.
na dhanaà na janaà na sundaréà
kavitäà vä jagad-éça kämaye
mama janmani janmanéçvare
bhavatäd bhaktir ahaituké tvayi
[Shri Çikñäñöaka – Çloka Four]
I do not desire wealth, nor beautiful women, nor followers for prestige nor even liberation from suffering. My only desire, my Lord, is to be your servant birth after birth after birth.
So Many Difficulties:
Leaving Vrindavan, Going To America:
And how leaving the land of Vrindavan. In Vrindavan he was living in a holiest of all holy places – the temple of Srila Jiva Goswami. And he left that place, first to come to this Bombay and then to go on cargo ship. No money. When we go back and forth from India to America, we fly in airplanes that take less than one day; and we have a place to go when we get off of that plane. Srila Prabhupada was not even on a passenger ship. He was on a freighter. And when we got off of that boat, some strange man was coming to meet him. He didn’t know where he was gonna take him. And seeing that that security was useless he went to New York City where he didn’t know where he was going to go…and how he was going to exist. And in that humble spirit, he simply repeated the word of his Gurudeva. And what was that word? Simply chant the Holy Names and you will attain perfection of life. And he circled the globe further 12 times. And do not think it was easy.
Problems From Inside & Outside:
He was managing a worldwide society, personally. Because his disciples were not able, they were not confident. Their problems, their downfalls, their impurities, their mistakes, persecution, aggressions by governments against his movement, aggressions by other religions who could not tolerate him coming into their land…..aggressions by materialistic agencies who were kidnapping his disciples and torturing them. Aggressions by his own god brothers – many of them who could not tolerate his success were trying to undermine him. Aggressions by the so called Brahminical society of India….who could not tolerate that he was bringing Sanatana Dharma outside of the boundaries of India.
Wherever he went, at every level there were persecutions and aggressions against him from the outside and there was constantly the fighting for positioning and the downfalls due to weak heartedness and conditionings amongst his disciples from the inside.
Never Give Up:
Srila Prabhupada accepted a task which perhaps no man in the history of this world has ever accepted – such a responsibility, such an austerity, such a painstaking commitment. He began it at the age of 70. And he never tired, he never lost hope, he never lost heart. Despite so many disappointments from his disciples, despite so much aggression against him – from all directions….Srila Prabhupada always…he shined like millions and millions of suns. Because he was only attached to one thing – to show the kindness and love of his spiritual master to the world. And it took only such a person of such commitment to spread this message through the world. So many yogis, so many gurus came to the West – they gave a talk, people clapped and they left and became famous and got in all the newspapers and when they came home they were great parades celebrating what they had done in the West. But what did they really do in comparison? Srila Prabhupada lived amongst the most fallen people of the West and personally spoon fed them to give them God Consciousness and changed their hearts – even though some times they tried to murder him because they were crazy – he kept going. Nothing could stop him because he was on a mission of love. Then through his laborious actions he actually changed the hearts of millions.
The Biggest Dogma:
There was no great celebration; there was no great fanfare for him. There was only the service of his spiritual master. And the most unfortunate dilemma is that this country of India cannot appreciate properly what he did. If somebody goes to America, gives a lecture everybody goes out this…… [clapping]. Those people are famous then everybody loves them, but what have they done? No disciples, no body changing their lives, no body giving up sinful activities and committing their lives to the teachings of Vedanta. They are just great, scholarly, very nice. Or yogis come, have follow meditation here there. That is also very nice. That is all very nice, but here is a man that went and lived amongst the most down trodden people of that society and risked his life at such an age to spoon feed them with the essence of Vedic knowledge. And by his love and his compassion he changed their hearts, he transformed their lives to give up all sinful activities….to accept the principles of the sadhus, the acharyas….and to give their life to the mission of Sanatan Dharma by the tens and hundreds and thousands.
And yet when he came to back India, they accused him of being CIA – CID. They accused him of…of – so what if you have made some hippies Krishna Conscious……..The most unfortunate condition of human society is when they cannot appreciate a great person in their midst. This is the greatest disaster of India. But they, what this country thinks of Prabhupada who factually is the greatest emissary of Vedanta philosophy and Sanatan Dharma that has ever lived. He has actually transformed people of every nation in the world into devotees of Rama and Krishna. Not just casual scholars, but committing their lives. And who in this country appreciates? Until the land of India appreciates this greatest representative that their land ever has, I don’t think this country is ever going to get the blessings of God. Because here is a person who more than any one sold out his life, risked his life, took on so much suffering and pain just to give India a good name in this world, and to give the gift of India to the world. While so many people were leaving this country to get money, to get prestige, to get fame. Why do Indians go to the West? For money, for comforts. He abandoned all comforts simply to give, to give the treasure of Indian culture – love of God. And who appreciates it? Often times he is criticised.
True Lover Of India:
It is a fact many of us disciples have made many mistakes, may have done foolish things. But what change of heart, even in those foolish things, have they had by the grace of Prabhupada. And there was no one who loved India more than Srila Prabhupada. He brought tens and millions of dollars from all over the world to build beautiful temples and have beautiful programs of food relief in India. In Mayapur he was feeding tens and thousands of people a day – people who were suffering from starvation. He built beautiful temples in Vrindavan, Mayapur, Bombay, Hyderabad. He travelled far and wide somehow or other trying to reverse the trend of the Indian condition of life chasing after the materialistic ways of the West. He brought his western disciples to show them that you see, here are people – none of his disciples, not a single one of them from the West who were from low class families – they were often highest most wealthy families. Because only those who were very very intelligent – he was going after everybody, but even the downtrodden hippies they were often the upper upper classes, millionaires, upper class, beyond comprehension of most Indians – they gave up everything for Prabhupada’s teachings. And when Prabhupada came back to India he wanted to show them you are chasing after these crazy things – these people had it all, they rejected it to have what you have – right here – the Holy Name of Krishna.
Give Honour & Glory To Srila Prabhupada:
One of the main goals of Srila Prabhupada’s whole mission of travelling worldwide, was to somehow or other convince the Indians to accept their own spiritual culture again. So in my opinion, this idea of trying to hide our society from the Hare Krishna movement is a blasphemy to Srila Prabhupada. He gave his life…..more than any other man in history for India’s spiritual culture. And it is only by his mercy that we have anything today. And therefore whatever name we use, we should know that our greatest service is to give the dignity and respectability of our Guru and his Guru’s name in this land. We should live; we should speak in every way that Srila Prabhupada’s name is honoured by the people of this world, and specially this land. And if we do any thing sinful, we should know that we are throwing mud on the name of our Gurudeva to the eyes of the world. So, simply if we have any appreciation or love for him, we must strictly adhere to his instructions, live a pure and gentle life and give our life for the mission of glorifying the name of our Guru and Krishna. That is our life and we live for noting else.
And on the disappearance day of Srila Prabhupada, we should commit ourselves one hundred thousand percent, every aspect of our life…….to work in such a way that Srila Prabhupada can appear within the hearts and the lives of everyone we come in contact with through whatever we do. Because through his appearance, love of Krishna will awaken within one’s heart. Hare Krishna.
The time in which Srila Prabhupada left this world was 7:30 in the evening on this day. In Vrindavan, in the very room in which Srila Prabhupada departed his earthly pastimes, every evening from…on this auspicious day from 7 o’clock to 8 o’clock the devotees gathered. Srila Prabhupada left this world on this day. There should be a mood in our spirit of performing the kirtana of Holy Name, this evening. Also, because Srila Prabhupada, very much wanted the preaching of the glories of the Holy Name through his disciples. We should perform this kirtana in such a way to impress upon the hearts of all others the joy and the glory of the chanting the names of Rama and Krishna. And to prepare ourselves, I would like to read some of the final pages of Srila Prabhupada’s biography describing his departure from this world.
[Beginning of Extract from ‘Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita’ Volume 6, Chapter 55 – The Final Lesson]
Reminded Of Bhishmadeva:
More than one devotee compared Prabhupada to Bhishmadeva, who gave important instructions in his last days. As Bhishma felt no pain and delivered learned and loving discourses even from his “bed of arrows,” and as Bhishma determined by his own will the time of his departure from the world, so Srila Prabhupada spent his last days oblivious to his physical condition, defying death, and instructing his spiritually innocent sons. But Prabhupada’s sons could no longer stand by and simply hear the philosophical lessons. Prabhupada had accepted their affection when they had cried for him to stay with them, and now they wanted to express that affection in the only world they understood, a world with Srila Prabhupada living and talking with them, laughing or reprimanding them, as he liked. They wanted him to eat and drink and become physically strong again.
Tune To Krsna’s Will:
But again Srila Prabhupada seemed to change, and he began refusing food and drink. He had postponed his passing away to exchange lovingly with his disciples, and yet at the same time, by refusing to eat or drink, he was showing his preference for passing away. He admitted, when pressed, that it was an impossible course of action-to live without food or drink. Nor did he expect or want miracles. If he was to get better, it would be by taking nourishment. But for reasons of his own, he would not eat. He said recovery was material, and he didn’t want it.
He kept closely in tune with the will of Krishna, allowing the holy name to sustain him. The doctors who came were often puzzled, but those who were Vaishnavas understood and respected his prerogative. Prabhupada’s servants made anxiety-filled attempts to induce Prabhupada to take regular treatment. But Prabhupada preferred to take only kirtana and Bhagavatam, while at the same time sustaining a willingness to live. He empathized with his disciples’ anxiety and patiently explained the puzzling situation they were in. He wanted their care, and he allowed them to try and treat him, knowing that it was bringing them more and more into a surrender of love. But gradually it became more clear that Krishna’s will was indicating Prabhupada’s departure.
It Is Not My Hands, but Krsna – Balaram:
“Srila Prabhupada,” Bhavananda coaxed, always working on the assumption that Prabhupada could stay if he wanted, “your presence on this planet is the only thing that’s keeping the onslaught of the Kali-yuga from really taking effect. We have no idea even what will happen if you leave.”
“It is not in my hands,” said Srila Prabhupada, with perfect clarity of consciousness. “Krishna-Balarama.”
Srila Prabhupada always spoke clearly, logically, and with complete devotion to Krishna. Up until the last he dealt with practical matters, forming a Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust for reconstructing ancient temples in Bengal and arranging final details regarding ISKCON properties and monies. Through all dealings he stayed always alert, and he absorbed himself in kirtana and Bhagavatam.
Love Is Beyond Death:
But it became obvious to his disciples that, despite his promise, he was again moving inevitably towards giving the final lesson. He was teaching that love was beyond death, that a disciple’s love could call the spiritual master back to the world to stay, and that a pure devotee has the ability to stay in the world beyond his allotted time. Meanwhile, however, he was progressing steadily to the final point. The devotees didn’t feel angry with him or cheated that he was doing so. He had told them that he had free will given by Krishna. And they also, by their free will, had asked him to stay, and he had agreed. But they knew he was not obliged. If, despite their prayers, Lord Krishna was telling Srila Prabhupada that he should come back home to Godhead, what could they do but accept? If Srila Prabhupada was accepting, then they would accept also. Nothing, however, could change the fact of their surrendered love; it had now become a solid pact that could not be vanquished by any material changes. They had passed the test of eternal loving service, and that could not be taken away by death.
No offences Ever:
Up until the end there were interludes of sweetness as well as displays of Prabhupada’s indomitable mood of fighting for Krishna. One day Prabhupada’s sister Pishima arrived unexpectedly, and Prabhupada asked her to cook khichadi. At that time Kirtanananda was trying to put Prabhupada on the road to recovery by gradually increasing his liquids, and Kirtanananda and the other devotees opposed the idea of his suddenly eating solid foods. But Srila Prabhupada insisted.
“It doesn’t matter whether what she cooks does good to me or bad,” said Srila Prabhupada. “She is a Vaishnavi. It will be good for me.” He then began speaking in an extremely humble way. “Probably I became a little puffed up because of my opulence and success,” he said. “Now God has shattered that pride. If you don’t have your body, what is there to be puffed up about?”
Bhakti-charu Swami protested, “Srila Prabhupada, whatever you have done, you have done for Krishna.”
“That may be, but in this world, unknowingly you commit offences.”
When Piçimä heard this, she exclaimed, “No, no, he never committed any offense.”
“You cannot ever commit offenses,” said Bhakti-charu. “You are God’s very dear one. How can you commit offenses?”
“I am a little temperamental,” said Srila Prabhupada. “I used to use words like rascal and so on. I never compromised. They used to call it “A club in one hand and a Bhagavatam in the other.’ That is how I preach. Anyway, make arrangements for my sister.”
You Are A Eternal Leader:
There were also visits from Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers, and again Prabhupada asked forgiveness for his offenses. One time, Nishkinchana Krishnadasa Babaji, Puri Maharaj, Ashrama Maharaj, Ananda Prabhu, Purushottam Brahmachari, and about twenty others came and sat next to Prabhupada’s bed. He was resting when they arrived, and they joined the kirtana until he awoke. When he saw them, he asked to be raised up. Sitting in the center of his bed with his Godbrothers all around, he addressed them.
“All over the world there is a beautiful field to preach Krishna consciousness,” he said. “I didn’t care whether I would be successful or not. People are willing to take. They are all taking also. If we preach together, the saying of Mahaprabhu, prithivite, will come true. We have everything. Spread the holy name and distribute prasadam. There is a beautiful field. In Africa, in Russia, everywhere they’re accepting.”
When Prabhupada began asking his Godbrothers to forgive him, they protested. “You are the eternal leader,” one of them asserted. “You rule over us, guide us, and chastise us.”
Srila Prabhupada’s Real Humility:
“Forgive all my offences,” Prabhupada repeated. “I became proud of all my opulence.”
“No,” said Puri Maharaj, “you never became proud. When you started preaching, opulence and success followed you. That was the blessing of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Shri Krishna. There cannot be any question of your being offensive.”
When Srila Prabhupada presented himself as maha-patita, greatly fallen, Puri Maharaj did not accept it. “You have saved millions of people around the world,” he said. “Therefore there is no question of offenses. But you should be called maha-patita-pavana [the great saviour of the fallen].”
Prabhupada’s disciples regarded Prabhupada’s asking for his Godbrothers’ forgiveness as a manifestation of his humility. But they were also puzzled. Certainly Prabhupada’s Godbrothers were sincere in saying Prabhupada had committed no offense. Whatever he had done, he had done for Krishna. But Srila Prabhupada was also sincere in asking for forgiveness. That was the beautiful gem of his humility-to ask everyone for forgiveness.
Maha – Bhagavat Qualities Fully Displayed:
For the purpose of preaching, displaying this gem had not always been the most effective way to spread the merciful teachings of Lord Krishna in every town and village. But now it could be displayed. In London and now in Vrindavan, Prabhupada was showing his disciples extra affection and gratitude, without the reprimands usually necessary in training disciples. This attitude of complete humility was a symptom of the highest stage of devotional life. Srila Prabhupada had explained in his books that the madhyam adhikari, the second-class devotee, makes distinctions between the devotees, the innocent non-devotees, and the demons, whereas the maha-bhagavata, or first-class devotee, sees everyone-except himself-as a servant of God. Sometimes, however, the maha-bhagavata desires to come down from the first-class platform to the second-class platform, just to take up the most compassionate service of preaching Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada’s disciples had all read of the maha-bhagavata stage in the scriptures, and now they were seeing it fully displayed, as Prabhupada referred to himself as the most fallen and asked for everyone’s forgiveness.
A Loving, Sweet Controversy:
Srila Prabhupada had heard of the program of his disciple Lokanath Swami, who was taking a small group of men on a bullock cart and preaching in villages throughout India. Lokanath had told Srila Prabhupada how in the course of their travels they had recently visited tirthas such as Badarikasrama and Bhim Kapur. Srila Prabhupada was enlivened to hear this, and he then evolved a transcendental desire to go himself on a cart pulled by bullocks to circumambulate the area of Vrindavan. Tamal Krishna and Bhavananda, who were serving Prabhupada with increased intimacy, felt themselves unable to support Srila Prabhupada in his desire, since they thought his fragile body could not survive such rough treatment on the roads.
But Srila Prabhupada reasoned that “Dying on parikrama is glorious,” and he asked them to take him. A controversy developed among the devotees, as some said Prabhupada’s will to go on parikrama should be immediately honored as an order from the spiritual master; he wanted it, and he should not be denied. The doctor, however, assured them that Srila Prabhupada’s body would not survive the jostling of the cart. The many devotees who crowded around Srila Prabhupada’s bed held different opinions, and Prabhupada could see this. Following his request, however, Lokanath went out and hired a cart with bullocks and prepared it for the ride. Lokanath and Hamsaduta suggested that the parikrama could go to the city of Vrindavan or visit the seven main temples of the Goswamis. But then they said that since the next day was Govardhan-puja, Prabhupada could go to Govardhan Hill. Tamal Krishna, Bhavananda, and Bhakti-charu, however, protested adamantly against the parikrama.
“One-day experiment,” Prabhupada said. “It is for one day. Rest assured I will not die in one day.” He liked the idea of going to Govardhan. “And we shall make our cooking there,” he said. Lokanath Swami, he assured them, was experienced. “Make very good picnic,” he said.
Disciples Love Is Sometimes Maddening:
After discussing back and forth, the devotees finally decided that early the next morning they would take Srila Prabhupada in a bullock cart to Govardhan. The majority of the devotees then left Srila Prabhupada alone for the night.
Later that night Srila Prabhupada received a visit from Nishkinchana Krishnadasa Babaji, who sat with Prabhupada, chanting and sometimes speaking in Bengali. Suddenly, Tamal Krishna and Bhavananda came to Prabhupada’s bedside. They were in tears and beside themselves with anxiety.
Prabhupada understood. “You request me not to go?” he asked.
“Well, Srila Prabhupada,” said Tamal Krishna, “I’ll tell you, I’m getting so upset sitting in the room upstairs. I was walking around. Two of the devotees told me that this road is so bad that if you go on this road you’re going to be jolted back and forth. The road is terrible. I just can’t understand, Srila Prabhupada, why it has to be tomorrow that we have to go. Of anybody that wants you to travel, I do. But why do we have to go when you’re in this condition? I can’t understand it. Why are we throwing everything out the window that we must go tomorrow? I can’t understand.”
“All right,” said Srila Prabhupada softly, immediately agreeing to their proposal that he not go.
“Jaya, Srila Prabhupada!” said Bhakti-charu, who was also present.
“Thank you, Srila Prabhupada,” said Bhavananda with great relief.
“All right. You’re satisfied?”
“Now I am, Srila Prabhupada,” said Bhavananda. “Yes. I was in too much anxiety.”
“Never mind. I shall not put you in anxiety.”
“Actually, Srila Prabhupada,” said Tamal Krishna, “we’re so much attached to you that you practically drive us to madness sometimes. To night we were becoming mad.”
“No, no, I shall not do that,” said Prabhupada. “Babaji Maharaj,” Prabhupada turned to Nishkinchana Krishnadasa Babaji and said, “-just see how much affection they have for me.”
“Srila Prabhupada,” said Tamal Krishna, “the way you deal with us simply deepens our attachment every moment.”
“It is my duty,” said Prabhupada, and the devotees laughed warmly, understanding. Yes, they could understand-that was his duty. By all his actions and dealings, Prabhupada’s intention was to capture spirit souls and deliver them to Krishna. His method was loving service, but he did not do it for himself. He was delivering them to Krishna. That was his duty.
Until Last Breath:
On November 14, 1977, at 7:30 P.M., in his room at the Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada gave his final instruction by leaving this mortal world and going back to Godhead.
His departure was exemplary, because his whole life was exemplary. His departure marked the completion of a lifetime of pure devotional service to Krishna. A few days before the end, Srila Prabhupada had said he was instructing as far as he could, and his secretary had added, “You are the inspiration.” “Yes,” Srila Prabhupada had replied, “that I shall do until the last breathing.”
Prabhupada’s “last breathing” was glorious, not because of any last minute mystical demonstration, but because Srila Prabhupada remained in perfect Krishna consciousness. Like grandfather Bhishmadeva, he remained completely collected and noble and grave, teaching until the end. He was preaching that life comes from life, not from matter, and he was showing that one should preach with every breath he has. The many devotees who crowded the large room bore witness that up to the very end, Prabhupada remained exactly the same. There was nothing suddenly in congruous with what he had previously shown and taught them. At the time of his departure, therefore, he was teaching how to die, by always depending on Krishna. Prabhupada’s passing away was peaceful. During the evening of November 14, the kaviräja asked him, “Is there anything you want?” and Prabhupada replied faintly, kuchh ichchha nahim: “I have no desire.”
Whereever You Are, That Is Vrindavan:
His passing away was in the perfect situation: in Vrindavan, with devotees. A few months previously, a young girl, the daughter of one of Prabhupada’s disciples, had passed away in Vrindavan, and when Srila Prabhupada had been asked if she went back to Godhead to personally associate with Krishna, he had said, “Yes, anyone who leaves his body in Vrindavan is liberated.”
Of course, “Vrindavan” also means the state of pure Krishna consciousness. As Advaita Acharya had said of Lord Caitanya, “Wherever You are is Vrindavan.” And this was also true of Srila Prabhupada. Had Srila Prabhupada passed away in London, New York, or Moscow, therefore, his destination would have been the same. As Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita, “One who is always thinking of Me, surely he attains to Me.” But because Vrindavan-dham is the quintessential realm of Krishna consciousness within the universe, the ideal place for departure from this world, so it was yet another exemplary feature of Srila Prabhupada’s life that he went back to Godhead with Vrindavan as his last junction.
Those Vaishnavas who had taken the vow never to risk leaving Vrindavan could see that Srila Prabhupada, after sacrificing everything-including the benefit of residing in Vrindavan-to deliver fallen souls in the most godforsaken locations of the world, had returned to the holy land of Vrindavan and from there had departed for the original abode of Lord Krishna in the spiritual sky. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, “Anyone who executes service in Vrindavan certainly goes back to home, back to Godhead, after giving up his body.”
Surrounded By Krsna:
Srila Prabhupada’s departure was also perfect because he was chanting and hearing the holy names of God. Thus the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present at Srila Prabhupada’s passing just as He was at the celebrated passing away of Bhishmadeva, who said, “Despite His being equally kind to everyone, He has graciously come before me while I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor.” As Lord Krishna came before Bhishmadeva, assuring him and everyone else that Bhishma was returning back to Godhead on leaving his body, so the Lord in His incarnation of namavatara, the Hare Krishna mantra, was present for Srila Prabhupada’s departure.
Srila Prabhupada’s life had been dedicated to spreading the holy name to every town and village, and for a month he had been surrounding himself with the holy name. For his passing away, he especially wanted to fill the room with devotees chanting Hare Krishna, and Krishna fulfilled that wish. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, departed under the most favorable circumstances possible-in the most sacred place, Vrindavan, surrounded by Vaishnavas chanting the holy name.
How To Meet Death – “The Final Lesson”
An ideal spiritual teacher (acharya) always acts in such a way that others may follow his example. As Srimad-Bhagavatam states, these great souls who cross over the ocean of birth and death by taking shelter of the “boat” of the lotus feet of Krishna miraculously leave the boat on this side for others to use. And Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, by its perfect example, affords all conditioned souls the means for meeting the greatest of all dangers. An auspicious death is not merely a matter of psychological adjustment, so that one may die without regret or without becoming unduly upset. The real point is that at the time of death the soul must leave the body and take his next birth. Only the Krishna conscious soul can leave this world of birth and death and attain an eternal, blissful life in the spiritual world. Therefore one’s life is tested at death.
Over the last months of his life in this world, Srila Prabhupada taught how it is possible to meet death step by step in Krishna consciousness. In his last days, he told one of his sannyasis, “Don’t think this isn’t going to happen to you.” Prabhupada came into this world, on Krishna’s request, to teach us how to live a pure life of Krishna consciousness, and that includes how to finally pass away from this world to attain eternal life. Prabhupada underwent death in a way that was perfect and glorious, and at the same time in a way which we can all follow. When we have to go, we can cling to the memory of how a great soul left his body-always thinking of Krishna, surrounding himself with the medicine of chanting Hare Krishna, always desiring to hear about Krishna, and practicing detachment from the misery of the material condition. This last lesson was one of the most wonderful and important instructions Srila Prabhupada gave us. He taught by his life, by his books, and at the end by his dying. Education in how to die is meant especially for the human being. An animal dies, and a human being also dies; but a human being is supposed to understand the process of going back to the spiritual world at the time of death. Remaining always fixed and undisturbed in Krishna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada expertly taught the process. His passing away, therefore, was a perfect lesson, and one that can be faithfully followed.
Bereft Of His Divine Grace’s Physical Presence:
While there was nothing lamentable for Srila Prabhupada in his departing from the world and going back to Godhead, it was certainly lamentable for his followers and for the people of the whole world, who became bereft of the presence of their greatest well-wisher and benefactor. Srila Prabhupada had written in a Srimad-Bhagavatam purport, “When the mortal body of the spiritual master expires, the disciple should cry exactly like the queen cries when the king leaves his body.” At the departure of his own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada had written, “On that day, O my Master, I made a cry of grief; I was not able to tolerate the absence of you, my guru.” And so on November 14, 1977, as the powerful news spread around the world, those who knew and loved Srila Prabhupada were gripped by a fearful, unrestricted grief. They saw everything around them in the overwhelming atmosphere of separation from Srila Prabhupada. They turned for solace to Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Vani Gives Constant Association:
However, the disciples and the spiritual master are never separated, because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple, as long as the disciple follows the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani. Physical presence is called vapu. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciples should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.
Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were already carrying out his instructions, but now they would have to do so without the vapu, without the opportunity of regularly seeing and being with him. At first this was very difficult for them to face, but those who were sincere soon realized that Srila Prabhupada had, upon his departure, given them the greatest gift of all: service in separation.
Service In Separation:
Service in separation is the highest realization and ecstasy. This was the teaching of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in regard to Lord Krishna and His foremost devotees, the gopis of Vrindavan. When Krishna left His beloved gopis and went to Mathura, never to return to them in Vrindavan, the gopis (and all the other residents of Vrindavan) wept piteously in separation. They so much loved Krishna that they could not live without Him.
Prabhupada’s followers knew this principle of service in separation, technically known as vipralambha-seva, but to most devotees it was a theoretical realization. Before one can feel intense loving separation from Krishna, one must first feel intense attraction to Him. But for the conditioned soul who has forgotten and abandoned Krishna and has come to the material world under the spell of maya, illusion-for him, “separation” from Krishna is based on complete ignorance and forgetfulness.
Still Continue To Serve Him:
But when Srila Prabhupada departed from the world and left his disciples to carry on his mission, they immediately realized union with him in separation. He was gone, but he was still very much present. This realization was not a pretension or a myth, nor was it sentimental psychic phenomena-telepathy, “communion with the dead,” or so on. It was a completely substantive, practical, palpable reality, a fact of life. Srila Prabhupada had given them personal service, and now they would continue that service. Prabhupada was still present through his instructions, and all the nectar of his direct association-all the nectar of Krishna consciousness that he had given and shared with them-was still available.
Service in separation for Prabhupada’s disciples was undoubtedly a fact, otherwise, now that they were without his personal presence, how were they able to sustain themselves in spiritual life? The fact that they could continue as before, increase their feelings of devotion, and even increase their serving capacity, meant that Srila Prabhupada was very much still with them. As Srila Prabhupada’s last instruction was the lesson of how a human being should die, he now taught, beyond dying, how to practically implement the highest philosophical teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This realization gave the devotees great hope that Srila Prabhupada and the revolutionary life of Krishna consciousness he had brought with him were not finished upon his departure. Often when a great personality dies, his contribution collapses; but Srila Prabhupada’s presence remained and expanded, sustaining his devotees’ lives. He was still in charge.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya !!
Be a Prabhupadanuga:
Srila Prabhupada’s life did not end on November 14, 1977. And we hope that the readers of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita will not feel they have finished their connection with this literature by having read it once. Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita can be read regularly, from beginning to end. Our hope is that by hearing about Srila Prabhupada the reader will become himself a Prabhupadanuga, a follower of Srila Prabhupada. We can wish no better fortune upon anyone.
[End of Extract from ‘Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita’ Volume 6, Chapter 55 – The Final Lesson]