Aradhya Devi leaves this world
Posted October 7, 2004
Arcana and I participated in a very inspiring event last week as Aradhya Devi left her body. Forgive me for a little commentary:
Seeing how all the devotees came together to help Aradhya and her family, even those who had some "issues" with them, I couldn't help question why we devotees can't seem to cooperate like this while we are living. At least we seem to come together when someone is dying--but why wait till then, as we are all slowly dying? I was often reflecting as I chanted and prayed in her presence, how insignificant are those things that devide us into camps and sometimes into warring (either hot or cold) factions. Perspectives seem very important till our bodies are dying. Then no ones asks us about or philosophy or stand on issues--they only want to help us remember Krsna.
At the time of death all that matters is to remember our Lord with love, concentration, and no regrets, In order to do this, besides being of a pure mind and heart we need to be at peace with our leaving. In other words we need to be resolved in our relationships, letting go of attachments to people (positive or negative; material love or hate), as well as to places, or things that require us coming back to work them out, or obtain them. That is very important. We get so caught up in the moment that we often forget what is really important from the true soul perspective. Srila Bhaktivinode sings that real dharma is chanting the holy name and being kind to the jivas. Whatelse matters?
Here is an account of Aradhya Devi's passing written by Madan Mohan Mohini dd. My wife also wrote an article for BTG that she is putting the finishing touches on.
Yours in service,
Memories of Aradhya dasi's passing
by Madan Mohan Mohini d.d.
Aradhya dasi, disciple of Srila Prabhupada, devoted wife of Pitavasa prabhu and loving mother to Daksina dasi, left this world on Mon., Sept. 27, 2004 on the disappearance day of Srila Haridas Thakur at 9:16 p.m. She and her family had been living in Prabhupada Village in Sandy Ridge, NC for the last 4-5 years. Aradhya prabhu had been ill with a chronic cough for many months and one month prior to her leaving, found out she had cancer that was already in many areas of her body and was quite advanced. Pitavasa prabhu did everything he could through natural methods, which was what she also wanted, and although she had made some progress in her health, her condition drastically worsened a few days before she departed. I would like to share my experiences as I spent practically every moment with her in her last few days.
Thurs., Sept. 23 - Aradhya prabhu's condition suddenly took a turn for the worse and Pitavasa prabhu was finally able to reach Kamra dasi (a godsister who lives here and who has many natural healing skills). By the time she arrived at their home, Aradhya prabhu had almost left and she was aware of this. Kamra prabhu managed to bring her pulse down, but it was difficult to stabilize her so they decided to call an ambulance and take her to the hospital to see if anything further could be done to help her. The paramedics immediately put her on oxygen. Though she did not want to go to the hospital, her husband hoped the doctors could stabilize her and she could then return home to prepare for leaving her body. Once in the hospital, she firmly insisted that no drugs, especially morphine, be administered. At this point, the doctors said she only 1/4 of her lungs were working; they were filled with liquid which put pressure on her heart. It was decided to try to drain her lungs the next day but that there was the danger of heart failure. They said even if they did that, the lungs would again fill up and therefore gave her no more than 3 days to live. I learned of all of this after Aradhya prabhu had been taken to the hospital and it wasn't until late evening that I learned about how much time she had to live. At this point, I knew that I wanted to be with her and serve her until the very end. I decided to sleep on it and then make phone calls the next day.
Fri., Sept. 24, Ekadasi - I was on the phone all day informing the devotees in the community and in different parts of the country and world of Aradhya prabhu's situation as well as tried to make sure everything was covered from prasadam to kirtans. It was at this time I really began to appreciate how Srila Prabhupada had given us a world-wide family and wonderful that was! Pitavasa prabhu kept me informed of Aradhya prabhu's condition and said they were going to do a procedure that would drain only some of the liquid as it was too difficult to get to all of the many small pockets of fluid. It was a precarious situation because of the effect on her heart. Understanding this, the devotees immediately went to the hospital to have kirtan. During this time, I stayed on the phone and was able to connect with Bhakti Caru Maharaja with whom Aradhya and Pitavasa prabhus had a long-standing relationship. Unable to call the hospital, he relayed a very loving and concerned message through me to her; Pitavasa prabhu held the phone up to her ear as I told her what Maharaja had said. She was very deeply appreciative. Indradyumna Maharaja also called her from Russia and spoke at length with her. It meant so very much to her. The procedure went well (she would still have to remain on oxygen) and before Pitavasa prabhu brought her home, Aradhya prabhu, well-aware of the fact that she would leave her body soon, told her husband she wanted Daksina and him to her ashes put in the Yamuna. They arrived home around 7 p.m. and when I walked in, the atmosphere reminded me of when Srila Prabhupada was getting ready to depart. The room was peaceful and the devotees were sitting around her bed having beautiful bhajans. I had brought Srila Prabhupada's shoes with me and placed them on her head. She brought her weak arms up and grabbing them, held them to her head and face. They remained at her head the whole time. She was completely conscious but was speaking small words and only as much as necessary. After a while Pitavasa prabhu thanked the devotees and asked them to leave in order to give Aradhya prabhu some time to rest. I stayed for quite a while; I was concerned - when would she leave? That could happen at any time and so I decided to speak with her and chant. She told me then she was ready to leave and I could see she was preparing for that final moment; she had an incredible fixity of mind and an incredible and determined fighting spirit. Before I go any further, I would like to express how absolutely honored I felt to be in her presence, that I felt so fortunate to be able to render some small service. And what transpired over the next few days was something I had never experienced before. I have close relationships with some of my godsisters, but the relationship that developed between Aradhya prabhu and myself became deeply intimate and profound - we were teaming up for the final lesson - I, the servitor, she the teacher. Actually, Harivilas prabhu had expressed what a wonderful teacher she was and I said, yes, but she was especially teaching us how to leave this body.
Sat., Sept. 25 - Lord Vamanadeva's and Jiva Goswami's appearance day - Late last night at home, I spoke extensively with a hospice friend of ours and I found out more information as to what we needed to do to keep Aradhya prabhu comfortable. It was very kind of her as she took out special time to meet with Harakanta prabhu and myself at Aradhya prabhu's at 9 a.m. We learned how to take care of all of her physical needs. When Daksina did her mother's hair, I couldn't believe it - she looked exactly like that picture of Draupadi surrendering to Lord Krsna when Dusasana was trying to disrobe her! Aradhya prabhu's sister, Carol, and nephew, Nathan, were now here; my husband, Sivananda prabhu, had picked them up in the middle of the night. Her brother and others arrived later in the day. I believe it was early this morning when Aradhya prabhu woke Pitavasa prabhu at 4 a.m. as he slept on the floor next to her bed and told him it was time for mangala artik (she had no watch and had no way of knowing the time). She directed him in offering artik and then instructed him, step-by-step, in performing the puja for her Deities that she was so very attached to. (For the past several months, she could only engage in manasa puja, worship within her mind.) She constantly asked if he were washing off the flowers. This day she spoke only when spoken to and with only a word or two at a time. She, with the help of her sister, made sure all of the paper work was taken care of and she was finishing up all of her "last minute business". In the late morning, I asked if she would like to hear the story of the appearance of Lord Vamanadeva - she was very eager. I reminded her of the time she gave these wonderful classes on the mahajanas some time ago and how we begged her to give more classes but she humble declined. These were actually from some of the many childrens' stories she had been working on. She wanted to hear only the translations but at one point, when the word "test" from one of the purports caught my eye, I told her I was going to read it to her. Here Srila Prabhupada explained that Bali Maharaja had passed the severe test put before him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that this was further proof of the Lord's mercy toward His devotee. And that sometimes Krsna puts a devotee to severe tests that are almost unbearable. He appreciates the devotee's forbearance and records that for further glorification. Krsna gives the test and also the strength to tolerate such adversity. I read this to her twice. Krsna couldn't have shown us a more perfect purport! Though I had to leave the room for a moment, she eagerly awaited hearing the end - she even asked her husband to come get me and finish the story. She was so happy at the end of the story. When I spoke to her about how Bali Maharaja passed his test and now how she was being given the final test and that Krsna would give her the strength to pass this test, she did a "thumbs up". I had to laugh. This moment reminded me of Aradhya prabhu's great sense of humor which I saw often during the years. But, now the wit and humor were turned into sobriety. She was definitely dhira. In light of this, I can say she never, not once, said a word about her condition. Only once when I asked her if she were in pain did she nod yes. Some time after the reading, she looked at me and said, "up" and I asked, "Put the bed up?" (She was in a hospital bed brought by the hospice.) She said, "No" and motioned that she wanted to sit up. Grabbing for the bedrails, one in each hand, she slowly pulled herself up while I helped from behind. She had far more strength than I! When she sat up, she slowly pulled her legs into yoga position, crossing them on the bed. I laughed and told her I didn't know she was such a yogi! But, inside, I was understanding that she actually was a yogi: yoginam api sarvesam. A little while later, her husband brought over her Krsna Balarama silas and she very slowly folded her hands in pranams. It was at this point I felt it was time to begin more steady chanting and preaching to her. We spent a lot of time alone and, from time-to-time, different devotees would come in and read to her or have a few bhajans. Her husband also came in and fed her some grapes and papaya. It made him so happy to see her eat something for during these last days she hardly ate or drank. I urged her, encouraged her to chant either out loud or in her mind, to fix her mind. Throughout the next days, I told her one of the things that Bhakti Caru Maharaja had said: "The gates to the spiritual world are opening up for you. Take advantage of this." A few times during the day, I asked her if her consciousness were fixed and she said, "No", and she slowly reached for my hand, took it in hers and asked, "Help me." This happened about 3 times. She completely endeared me to her. During some of the bhajans later on, as I urged her to chant, she did so. It was so wonderful seeing her mouth move in time to the chanting. I told her that this body was finished, now it was time to give all attachments up to Krsna, that Krsna and Srila Prabhupada would help her, give her protection. That night, her daughter, Daksina, who has the voice of a demigoddess, like her mother, lead some beautiful bhajans. I will add here that, following in the footsteps of her father, Pitavasa prabhu, and her mother, Daksina was very controlled and focused. I deeply admire her for this was an extremely difficult time for her. More devotees came for bhajans and at one point, while Pitavasa prabhu was chanting at her side, Aradhya prabhu put her arms around his neck and pulled him near her. He chanted the names of her favorite Deities: Sri Sri Radha-Paris Isvara, etc. and it was at this time that she asked him to let her go. As the night wore on, I chanted near her ear; I could see that her health was quickly deteriorating. I believe I went home for a short while but quickly returned upon a concerned call from Pitavasa prabhu. I know that at some point he and I made a pact - that either he or someone else would always be chanting by her side if I were not there with her. Saturday evening turned into Sunday morning and, we had a small version of the morning program and passed around invisible ghee lamps.
Sun., Sept. 26 - Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur's appearance day - Aradhya prabhu spoke a lot less and Arci prabhu fed her fruits and also liquid from a dropper off and on through the day as did Daksina. Morning was the time the women bathed her and as we usually did, asked her permission. When I inquired, she said no, but when Pitavasa prabhu personally came in and said she'd feel better, she said yes. After a few minutes I understood why this happened: she was a chaste wife and wanted to please her husband. Arci prabhu stayed with her the day and night and into the next day as well. By early afternoon, I realized I was beyond exhaustion and was encouraged to get some sleep. Seeing that someone would be with her, I went and took a few hours sleep. During the time I was gone, Astasakhi prabhu sang the beautiful prayers of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and their purports. Before my return, I went before the Deities and prayed to please make me an instrument, that I didn't know what to do, what not to do, what to say, what not to say. When I returned, I quietly asked in her ear if she wanted me to stay and she said yes. At this point, seeing that she was becoming more internalized, I felt that I need not say much more - it was between her and Krsna now. Some time later, I asked if her consciousness were fixed, and although she had responded very little during the day, she slowly but briefly nodded yes. I felt reassured. There was small bhajan through the night and I continued to chant in her ear. I kind of laughed to myself as she really put me to work - all-in-all she had me chanting for 4-5 days continuously! I had to completely focus my mind. Actually, because I could see a change in her breathing, I kept my eyes on her chest as I slowly and deliberately chanted in her ear. Only a few times did I verbally encourage her to focus her mind. I kept praying to Krsna to give me the strength to go on. Sunday turned into Monday as I continued chanting in her ear watching as her breathing continued to become more labored.
Mon., Sept. 27 - Srila Haridas Thakur's appearance day - Daksina dressed her mother's Deities very beautifully this morning. I could now see the signs that this would be Aradhya prabhu's last day with us as her breathing had become increasingly difficult. This was confirmed by the hospice representative who came out. She said, "I may be wrong, but it could be from a few hours to midnight tonight." She said that generally right near the end, the patient becomes panicky, restless and anxious but in Aradhya prabhu's case, being the devotee she was, she was completely the opposite - peaceful and controlled. Such a contrast! At this stage, Aradhya prabhu was no longer responding externally but lay there hardly moving - and I knew she was in great pain. My body, being in an awkward position for so many days, was in agony from leaning over and trying to reach her ear, but as I thought of how Aradhya prabhu was feeling - and I really didn't understand - I felt ashamed, that my pain was nothing. I could see I certainly was not transcendental to the bodily aches and pains. I again prayed for the strength to go on and endure. Krsna was kind - I have the tendency to push myself and I found that I was able to use this ability to be with Aradhya prabhu all these days. And even though I found that I nodded out a few times, I awoke to find myself chanting just as audibly and clearly as before! I was amazed at how Krsna was holding me together. There were some bhajans off and on during the day, but in the late afternoon I asked someone to please call around and ask everyone to come; the time was coming nearer. A couple of times I encouraged her to focus her mind on the holy name. Occasionally throughout the day, her arms would move almost in slow motion and a couple of times she put her hands together, fingers clasped together, on her stomach as if she were doing yoga. But, I don't really know. Some time later, while I was chanting in her ear, her left arm came up and her hand rested on my face. I immediately felt she were thanking me. She did it again and this time I felt she were thanking me for our friendship. Again, a third time, we both laughed - she had really put me to work! I must say that although I'm a very emotional person, I kept myself in check this whole time lest I create some disturbance for her. But, this time it was so hard; I almost broke down - I felt so deeply touched by her love and gratitude. I had to do some deep breathing to let those emotions go. I really have no idea if she meant anything by it, but that's what I deeply felt. As early evening approached, I knew it was a matter of hours; the symptoms were there. Although I could not see because my eyes were focused on her chest, I could hear the room fill up with more and more voices of sweet kirtan. Pitavasa prabhu was chanting a good amount of the time in her other ear. I just kept chanting slowly, carefully, deliberately in her ear. I was beginning to hear the congestion in her lungs. Obviously they were filling up for the final time. It was getting dark, the light was very dim, I could hardly see and so I focused my eyes on her open mouth so I could watch her breathing while I continued to chant in her ear. I prayed to Krsna to please give me the strength to the end - I was beyond exhaustion. I felt like Arjuna when he had fixed his mind on the eye of the fish he was trying to pierce. And, in my exhaustion, I mentally told Aradhya prabhu that she had beat me - she was working so hard to attain the goal and I had to struggle to keep up with her! I was practically hallucinating at this point. During these last hours I simultaneously chanted and prayed to Krsna that He please end her suffering and take her. I remember telling her a few times that it was getting close to the end, that it would be soon. As I watched her breathing slow down, and as she began to hold a few breaths, I knew that the final moment was just around the corner. Just at that moment, I was tapped on the shoulder and was told that Pitavasa prabhu wanted to speak with me. She was just about to leave! I was in such anxiety! Of course, the tape of Srila Prabhupada was still on although drowned out by an incredibly sweet kirtan and I knew it was all up to Krsna, but I had made a promise I would be there to the end. I asked Mamata prabhu to chant in her ear. I ran out to hear that the relatives wanted to say good-bye to her. I was distraught - Krsna, why now? Only 3 devotees were allowed to remain in the room chanting, the others could chant in the other room. I ran back in and resumed my position at her ear. One-by-one they came in, speaking in her ear. I just kept chanting in her ear and praying. I mentally told her to remain fixed, that maybe this was her final test and reminded myself that Krsna was the orchestrator, not I. (Later Pitavasa prabhu had told me that they wanted to tell her that it was ok, she could go.) I put myself fully into chanting as the kirtan swelled. Her breaths were being held more often and were further apart. The time was close. At 9:16 p.m., on the disappearance day of Srila Haridas Thakur, she took her final breath surrounded by the holy name. She surprised me - I actually thought it would take a bit longer. I chanted a little more watching her chest to make sure there were no more breaths. She looked so serene. Pitavasa prabhu had leaned over to speak with someone at that time and when he found out she had left, he announced it and the kirtan became so tumultuous that the whole room shook. The floor felt as if it were going to cave in! I placed a Tulasi leaf from Lord Jagannath in Jagannath Puri and several Tulasi leaves from her Deities in her mouth. After the kirtan subsided, she was bathed and dressed and the devotees came in again for more kirtan. When I looked outside, it was raining, which, from my understanding, is auspicious when someone leaves.
I can honestly say her passing was so glorious. She was a real trooper. I saw her fixity of mind the whole time - you could feel it. She never complained and you would never have known her body was riddled with cancer. She just lay there and endured everything. She had dedicated her life to Srila Prabhupada, never wavered, was a chaste wife and devoted mother. As I put my head to her feet, I felt exhilarated but felt sad I would no longer have her association. Although I was able to render a little service, I felt she did the greater service - she gave me the opportunity to constantly remember Krsna. I've been given a great gift that's now locked in my heart - and no one can take that away. Aradhya prabhu was very devoted to Srimati Tulasidevi - she always wanted to have her in her window so she could see her. She was an excellent teacher in every way, an excellent gardener, she loved her Deities and always thought of Sri Sri Radha-Paris Isvara, her favorite Deities.
Through all of this, Pitavasa prabhu and his daughter, Daksina remained strong and fixed and constantly took the opportunity to preach. They both served her in every way to see to her comfort and assisted her in her last days and, they, along with Aradhya prabhu, set a wonderful example of Krsna consciousness. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for Daksina, but I told her when her mother returned from the hospital that this would deepen her conviction in Krsna consciousness.
I also feel 100% in my heart that Srila Prabhupada was pleased with our community as everyone put everything aside to serve in some wonderful capacity; it was like a puzzle with all of the pieces fitting perfectly together with Krsna orchestrating everything. We showed our love for him by how we co-operated. I also received some very extra-special mercy as a close godsister (who lives elsewhere and who didn't know Aradhya prabhu had left) had a most wonderful dream with Srila Prabhupada and myself the night of Aradhya prabhu's departure.
A feast was held in her honor on Thursday, Sept. 30. Pitavasa prabhu along with many other devotees spoke. Aradhya prabhu's sister, brother and nephew and one of Daksina's close friends also spoke and shared their profound realizations. Daksina spoke with such clarity and conviction - it was wonderful to hear.
And, so I just pray that when I leave, Aradhya prabhu will come and help me and again give me her association. Hare Krsna.
Madan Mohan Mohini dasi
Oct. 1, 2004