On the gratitude of a "groundhog"
Posted April 29, 2005
(April 19, 2005) I am like the groundhog that lives in the ground and every now and then pokes his head out of the ground. Stubborn about death, every now and then, I stick my head out and try to share something. I've had so many realisations in these last few months and there is no fun in trying to keep them to myself. For instance, every time godbrothers and godsisters came to visit me, I would pray to Srila Prabhupada to allow me to say something to help inspire those devotees in the continuation of their services. Where Srila Prabhupada revealed an issue to me that the devotee needed to work on, I would try to offer what I hope is humble advice. I learnt so much from all the devotees that came and they're still writing to me. I hope I shared something that helped them in various ways. Now that I am getting closer to death, I am beginning to look closer at my whole life. I see a pattern: as I was always praying to be forced by Srila Prabhupada to do what was necessary in his service, I can see that I was forced by so much mercy.
The very last time I met Srila Prabhupada was when he came to England on his way to Gita-Nagari. I was distributing his books in the then-communist countries. Most of you know the story: when he heard I was there, he immediately had Upendra and His Holiness Tamal Krsna Maharaja bring me in to see him. His Grace Krsna Ksetra prabhu and a Hungarian Swami (who later left his body in a car accident) came in with me. Srila Prabhupada motioned for me to come closer to the table where he was sitting. I came closer and he then motioned for me to come around his table. At that point he started rubbing my head and with tears in his eyes, he embraced me and said, "Your life is successful."
We spoke a few words more together, but the main thing I remember is I said, "Srila Prabhupada, if there is anything I have done to please you, it is because you have forced me." Even in his weak state his eyes got big and he said, "Yes! Just as my Guru Maharaja forced me, I have forced you, and this is how the parampara system goes on." So this is the essence of my first realization, that we want to be forced by the spiritual master. Our own intelligence, realizations and conceptions will always have some imperfections, but as we position ourselves to be forced, even though we may have some temporary setbacks, confusion and issues, and though we make mistakes, we will be pushed forward or even pulled forward in such a way that, ultimately, we will stay on track.
I was always confused about what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said that my life was successful. After all, I was and am, perhaps even now, full of gross and subtle attachments. I have never heard Krishna's ankle bells, nor have I heard His flute, although, like many of you, in special moments, I have been given special darsanas. I feel I have received quite a share of special darsanas -- even where once Sanatana and Jiva Goswami introduced me to Lord Chaitanya for a moment. Anyway, my point is not to talk about these kinds of darsanas. The point is what did Srila Prabhupada mean by that statement? It is only in the last few weeks that I have fully understood it. Let me share this with you.
The nature of my own sadhana and the status of my adhikara are such that I would never have the qualifications to go back to Godhead for who knows, maybe hundreds and thousands of years. But, you see for months, thousands of you have been praying for me, thinking of me, and sending me intense love, therefore it is all of you who have given me a status far beyond my qualification. Everything has been arranged for me to go back to the spiritual world after I give up this body. How is this happening? Firstly by the unlimited mercy of Srila Prabhupada and also by the mercy of all of you. So it seems that when he embraced me and said, "Your life is successful," what he was really saying was, "Because I have given special mercy to you, you will have a glorious death." After all, what is life for a Vaisnava other than to leave the body successfully?
I am indebted to all of you, because it is by all of your mercy that a candala like me is receiving such blessings. Krishna responds to the prayers of his devotees. Most of you prayed for me to stay even though I asked you not to. My understanding is that those prayers were accepted for something even higher. Can you imagine how joyful I am, and yet at the same time how sad I am, for so few devotees, or people, are likely to get this kind of send-off? But it doesn't have to be that way. For instance, we should try to see how to facilitate the devotees with the least status in our society. Wouldn't it be amazing if every time a devotee left his or her body, practically the whole Vaisnava community around the world would send their love? Eventually it should come to this. You see, devotees who leave are special entities who have given their lives, along with each of us giving our lives, to raise the consciousness on the planet. It is such a graduation that it should be natural that all, or as many as possible, should celebrate this graduation.
Even a few years ago when I had the first operation on my prostate, devotees around the world prayed for me also. The prayers did not lead to a successful operation. Although there were no complications, six months later the same problem came back. Years later, when I got the cancer, new problems came forth and the old prostate problem joined the team and got worse. Both cases are unusual. So many prayers were directed for a successful operation and the majority of the prayers were so that I could be allowed to stay on the planet for longer. Of course, for those who prayed that whatever the desire of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada was should happen, we can say that either your prayers were stronger or that all of your prayers were strong, but weren't so much for the strength or rejuvenation of the physical body, but to give love, strength and protection to my consciousness.
This is why I send out this message today. I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to the entire Vaisnava community, my family, well wishers and members of other faith communities that I have had an impact on. Whilst seemingly your prayers are focusing on my rapidly deteriorating body, your prayers have done something much more wonderful. You have given strength, protection and nourishment to my soul. Actually I am amazed at how the soul is still tolerating the physical me. I am sure that the soul is also waiting for me to stop poking my head up like a groundhog, and finally lie down and give up the body. This I am ready to do; after all, I am somewhat torturing myself by staying longer in this body.
There are still a few more of you I think I can help. This is not arrogance; this is due to the powerful nature of how we are all connected by Srila Prabhupada's mercy. It is simply that right now, Srila Prabhupada is using me (as he will use all of us) to send certain messages of comfort, perseverance and determination to so many of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, whom he loves so dearly.
Now I think you can all understand my mantra a little better: "I am
blessed by the best, I will not settle for anything less, and I am now
preparing to pass the final test." You are the best, and you have
blessed me. I am not ready to settle for anything less than your
wonderful prayers and love. So as I keep repeating this mantra, I want
you to keep continuing to pray for me and bless me as I have to deal
with the final test of departure.