Posted November 23, 2007
Brahmananda das: In the final days we were with Prabhupada in Vrindavan taking turns to softly chant with little cymbals in a vigil kirtan. At a certain point I got sick. I collapsed in my room with a fever, and it took me about a week to recover. Then I was able to again go and see Prabhupada. When I came into his room Prabhupada was lying on his bed conversing with his servants. Sometimes he would ask who was leading the kirtan. That particular day he mentioned my name. Prabhupada said, "Oh, Brahmananda?" I came forward. He said, "You were ill? You were not feeling well?" Here is Prabhupada completely shriveled up from fasting, but he was concerned that I was not feeling well. I just had a little fever, and here is Prabhupada on his departure bed saying, "Oh, you are not feeling well?" with such concern and love. I was totally affected by that, how Prabhupada could be thinking that I wasn't feeling well.
The thing that affected me most was how much Prabhupada loved us although we are not very lovable as we all had defects. Why did Prabhupada love us? He loved us because he saw us as servants of Krishna. He said that we were sent by his Guru Maharaj to help him in his mission. Prabhupada saw us as Krishna's servants, and Prabhupada's mission was to spread Krishna consciousness. Whatever we could do to assist in this cause of Krishna consciousness, Prabhupada very much appreciated. I think that is the essence of Srila Prabhupada. He can see us as servants of Krishna. So let us just try to be that. That's all.
Rupa-Vilasa das: During Prabhupada's last days, 24-hour kirtan was going on in his room and devotees would chant for him in shifts. I went with a group of gurukula students. Prabhupada couldn't take too much sound so we used tiny kartals and made as little noise as possible. Tamal Krsna Maharaj asked me to lead the chanting and I thought, "I'd really like to please Prabhupada with this chanting." I tried to remember every tune that Prabhupada had chanted the Hare Krishna mantra to and I chanted those. I really concentrated, then our shift ended and we left. The next day when we went to chant, Tamal Krsna Maharaj grabbed me by the arm and said, "You have to chant for Prabhupada." I said, "Sure, but why?" He said, "The other day after you left Prabhupada called me over and said, 'Who was that chanting?'" Tamal, always the guardian, said, "Was there anything wrong, Prabhupada?" Prabhupada said, "No. It was very nice."
Another time, Ayodhyapati, who is now B.V. Govinda Maharaj, and I were in Prabhupada's room and we were asked to help massage Prabhupada. Devotees were massaging his head, arms and legs, and Ayodhyapati and I each massaged one of his feet. I felt, "I've always wanted to get the dust from Prabhupada's feet but I never had the opportunity," and I turned to Ayodhyapati and said, "This is Vaikuntha." It was. We felt like we were in the spiritual world with Prabhupada, serving him by massaging his feet.
During the last couple of months it seemed inevitable that Srila Prabhupada would be leaving us and we couldn't stand that thought. We felt helpless and desperate. Then when we were chanting for him on the last day, at first there was a lead singer and a response as there usually is, and in the final moments everybody began chanting together. It felt like there were many more people in that room than were actually there. It felt like there was a heavenly chorus with many personalities from other places present, and there was tremendous feeling as this glorious chanting was going on. It was a spectacular ending.
With his last breath Prabhupada uttered the syllables "Hare Krishna," and we could almost sense, "He's ascending now, he's with Krishna." Some devotees were completely stricken and cried hysterically-one threw himself on the floor weeping. Others were stoic-there were so many different kinds of reactions. It was intense but there was nothing inauspicious about it, it was completely auspicious. Sometimes the scriptures describe the sentiments of the gopis as being simultaneous nectar and poison, and Prabhupada's leaving was like that. It was ecstatic because Prabhupada had perfectly executed the mission of human life and gone back to Godhead, but it was an irretrievable and irreplaceable loss for us.
Pita das: At one point Prabhupada said that he had prayed his whole life to give up eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Can you imagine praying to Krishna, "Dear Krishna, please let me give up eating, sleeping, mating and defending?" Prabhupada said, "I already gave up the defending and the mating and by this disease I have also given up the eating and the sleeping. So Krishna has finally answered my prayer. Now my sense of smell is gone. When you cannot smell anymore, that means death will come soon." Prabhupada was revealing his true nature to us. He is completely free from eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The eating and the sleeping part are a little hard to give up, but he did it.
Although it was devastating when you first saw Prabhupada's deteriorated physical condition, after you were with him for a while you got used to it. When devotees saw him in that condition for the first time they'd cry and we'd all start crying seeing these devotees crying. At one point Prabhupada said, "Why are you all crying?" We said, "Srila Prabhupada, we're crying because you're so sick and we are afraid that you may leave." Prabhupada said, "I will never leave you. I live forever in my books so there's no reason to cry. Old people die, that is natural. When a young person dies there's some mistake because a young person should live until he's old. When he's old he should die. For me it's a natural thing, so don't cry."
One devotee said, "But Srila Prabhupada, we are crying because we can't be without you and when you leave, we won't know how to communicate with you." Prabhupada said, "I will communicate with you through your heart. I will come to you in your dreams. I will communicate with you through dreams as caitya-guru." I found that controversial because I thought my god-brothers wouldn't have approved, but Prabhupada said it, that he would communicate with us through dreams.
At times Prabhupada would say, "You all have very good mothers. Yes, all you boys have very good mothers." We said, "But our mothers, are meat-eaters." Prabhupada said, "The qualities of the son come from the mother. You are all good devotees, so I know you have good mothers." Prabhupada complimented us.
Prabhupada also said, "My Guru Maharaj left his body out of disgust-his disciples had not followed his order. But I'm not disgusted with you. I'm very satisfied and pleased with my disciples. Never think that I'm not happy with you. And I'm happy to have your association. You are good association." Because Prabhupada trained us in Krishna consciousness he saw us as good association.
At one point, all the devotees were with Srila Prabhupada in his room. Bhavananda, Giriraj, Jayapataka Maharaj, Satsvarupa Maharaj, Jayadvaita, Panca Dravida, they were all there. Prabhupada said, "Of my disciples, I see no one who has my qualities. But if I look at this or that disciple, I see some qualities. And if I look at a group of them, some percentage of my qualities is certainly there. So I have some hope that this movement can continue. The test of your love for me will be shown in how well you work together."
I felt Prabhupada was saying that no one person was going to be our leader but that a group of devotees together would have a percentage of Srila Prabhupada's qualities. Even all the devotees on the GBC taken together have only a percentage of Srila Prabhupada's qualities. I heard this from Prabhupada himself that within the GBC there is a percentage of his qualities, so we have some hope that this society will go on. It has gone on for thirty years and it will continue to go on. Of his sannyasa disciples Prabhupada said that if they fall down after he leaves they can never be given sannyasa again. He said, "If you do give them sannyasa again, their fall down will go on forever. So if a sannyasi falls down, they can never enter the sannyasa ashram again. Only I can do this. Only I can reinstate them. You cannot reinstate." That was his order.
I think all this happened in the same day in the order that I'm saying it. Prabhupada then said, "I want one million dollars put in a fixed account, and I want that money never to be withdrawn. And the interest on this money will go to renovate the holy places of Lord Chaitanya's pastimes, those that are gupta or lupta, hidden or lost. We want them revealed and brought back." A devotee said, "Srila Prabhupada, which holy places, the ones in Bengal, Bangladesh or in Orissa?" Prabhupada said, "The ones in Bengal first. But before we do any renovation of these holy places, I want my god-brother Sridhar Maharaj's Sri Chaitanya Saraswati Math finished because he's worked his whole life to establish this math. I want him to see that finished before he dies."
Prabhupada said, "I want to go to Govardhan." Everyone else said, "Srila Prabhupada, we don't think that's a good idea." Prabhupada said, "In the Ramayana, Marici was given a choice: If he didn't become a deer and tempt Rama away from Sita, Ravana would kill him. And if he became a deer, Rama would kill him. So Marici told Ravana, 'Better to be killed by Rama.'" Prabhupada said, "Better to be killed by Rama, better to go to Govardhan. If I stay in this room, it's like being killed by Ravana."
The devotees said, "But Prabhupada, you can't go. The doctor said that if we carry you, you won't even make it to the gate." There was a 15-minute discussion about this around Prabhupada's bed and Prabhupada said, "You have to talk outside. It is too exhausting for me to hear this going on." The devotees went to Prabhupada's garden and discussed his request for a long time. Hansadutta and Lokanath, who went to get the bullock cart to carry Prabhupada, wanted to fulfill Prabhupada's desire. Tamal Krishna Maharaj did not want to take Prabhupada to Govardhan. The talk went on and on and on until the bullock cart came to the gate of the Krishna-Balaram Temple. It was dusk when we heard, "The cart's here. It's time to move Prabhupada from the bed to the cart." Not only were we going to put Prabhupada on the cart, which would probably kill him, but also it was to be at night-even worse. We feared that Prabhupada would leave his body somewhere along the way.
We all went into Prabhupada's room, myself included, went around his bed and said, "Srila Prabhupada, please, please, don't make us put you on this cart." Prabhupada didn't say anything. We begged and begged him-we were crying. Prabhupada said, "If it worries you so much, I don't need to go." The whole anxiety level went from fifty thousand back to zero. We felt, "Oh, now we can relax," and the devotees started leaving Prabhupada's room. When there weren't many people in the room, Tamal Krishna Goswami, who was very intimate with Prabhupada and who had gotten fried in this situation, went to Prabhupada and said, "Prabhupada, we can't understand why you insist on us taking you to Govardhan. We got so upset and worked up. We got this cart and brought it here and were so worried that if we put you on the cart you would die. The way you deal with us simply deepens our attachment every moment. Prabhupada said, "It is my duty." Tamal Krishna said, "What?" Prabhupada said, "It is my duty to make you love me more."
When Prabhupada said, "To make you love me more," whatever love I had for Prabhupada multiplied a thousand times. Prabhupada made us love him so much. If we were with Prabhupada, he increased whatever love we had for him-we became more and more loving toward him. His duty, he said, was to make us love him more. What a wonderful duty. We already loved Prabhupada, but he was getting us to love him more.
Prabhupada's god-brother, Akincana Krishna das Babaji, was a great devotee, always jovial and laughing. Prabhupada spoke Bengali with him a lot of the time, but when he first came in Prabhupada said, "Babaji Maharaj, just look at my disciples. See how advanced they are. See how much they love me. See how attentive they are to me and to my every word. They are here to listen to every word I say. They are so obedient and so devoted to me." Babaji Maharaj said, "Yes, they are advanced." At that time I couldn't understand what Prabhupada meant by "advanced."
For many years I remembered the different things that happened in Prabhupada's room, and I kept thinking of that part, how these two paramahamsas said we were advanced. But I'm full of material desires and in those days my mind was filled with all kinds of nonsense, even worse than it is now. Then I remembered that Prabhupada said why were advanced: "They are so attentive to me, they love me so much, they are so devoted to me, they want to please me so much, they are listening to my every word." I realized, "An advanced devotee is the one who is attentive to Srila Prabhupada, who is devoted to Prabhupada, who listens to his every word-this is an advanced devotee." It took many years for me to understand this, but that is what Prabhupada was teaching me and teaching all of us.
When he was in his room, Srila Prabhupada talked about his god-brothers. He said, "I am the only son of my Guru Maharaj. The son inherits the father's business and of my god-brothers, I'm the only one who has inherited my father's business. The rest of my god-brothers are like daughters because the daughters stay within the house of the father. They don't inherit the business. My Guru Maharaj had only one son and that is me. The Gaudiya Math deviated so much from our spiritual master. But next to me they're still the best representatives of Lord Chaitanya on this planet." So first is Prabhupada, then the Gaudiya Math. That's how Prabhupada saw it.
At this time, Prabhupada told Swarup Damodar that there are four kinds of birth. There is birth from the egg, birth from sweat, birth from the womb and birth from the seed. He said, "So there's four kinds of birth, but scientists say that life comes from a combination of chemicals. Life comes in four ways-through seeds, through sweat, through the womb and through eggs. Life comes from life. The scientists cannot understand the verse from Bhagavad-gita, brahma-bhuta prasannatma, na socati na kanksati. They cannot understand that the brahma-bhuta person is self-realized and experiences happiness within. Even if his body is completely destroyed, he is in ecstasy." Then he said, "I am that brahma-bhuta person." Those were Prabhupada's last words when he was speaking to us. "I am that brahma-bhuta person."
Sarvabhavana das: After the Gaur Purnima festival in March-April of '77, Prabhupada came to Juhu. At that time the Juhu temple had opened but work was still going on in the adjoining twin towers guesthouse. Prabhupada's quarters were on the top floor of one of the towers. We greeted Srila Prabhupada at the front gate and I took the opportunity to hop into the one little place left in the front seat of the car. Srila Prabhupada was in the back seat, and Gopal Krishna Maharaj, Surabhi Maharaj (the architect), and Hari Sauri prabhu were also in the car. Srila Prabhupada was looking straight ahead and his features were a little drawn because he was not well. When we passed the twin towers, Prabhupada looked to the right, saw it pass, didn't say anything and again looked straight ahead. We stopped in front of his old quarters in one of those two-story buildings in the back of the property, where the BBT was housed, and we all hopped out, opened the trunk and took out the luggage while Prabhupada sat in the car. There was a flurry of activity as we took Prabhupada's luggage and everything else upstairs. Then a devotee informed Prabhupada, "All your luggage is upstairs, you may come now."
Prabhupada said, "This is not my house. My quarters are there in the twin tower. Why did you bring me here?" It was embarrassing for Surabhi Maharaj because Prabhupada's quarters in the tower were not complete. Surabhi Maharaj hedged and hawed and wrung his hands, and Prabhupada said, "I'm not staying here. You promised to take me to my quarters so take me there," and remained seated in the car. He didn't raise his voice-he was very calm. Everybody put all the things back in the car and we returned to the guesthouse.
The guesthouse elevator wasn't complete, it didn't reach the ground level yet, so two of us carried Prabhupada on a palanquin to the first floor and from there Prabhupada took the elevator to the top floor. We all went up also. His marble floor needed to be polished, there was muck everywhere, and his windows were not in place so a strong breeze was blowing in from the sea about fifty meters away. Prabhupada sat in a chair as we washed his lotus feet and then Surabhi Maharaj offered him gurupuja. Surabhi Maharaj wanted to make amends for what he had done but the flame in the ghee lamp he was offering kept blowing out and he was fumbling.
In the meanwhile Surabhi Maharaj arranged to have Prabhupada's reception area cleansed and he also arranged for a little carpet, a small table and a sitting asana for Prabhupada there. After the gurupuja, Prabhupada quietly came and sat in his reception area. Most of the devotees were asked to leave and about ten of us remained-Gopal Krsna Maharaj, Surabhi Maharaj, Giriraj and some others-and we all sat down with our heads hanging down. We expected a thunderstorm from Prabhupada because his quarters were so messy and noisy. Prabhupada had his head hanging down also. We sat like this for several minutes in pin drop silence. Time lost its meaning. Finally Prabhupada raised his head and spoke in a soft and tender voice. He said, "All of you are trying so hard to please this old man who gets irritated so fast. I am old and on top of that I am unwell so little things irritate me, but all of you are so tolerant." He went on like that for about ten minutes. I thought I was the only one who was crying but when I looked around I saw that everyone had tears in their eyes, including Prabhupada. It was so sweet, so wonderful. How can you not love such a person? That was one of the most beautiful experiences I had with Srila Prabhupada.
Abhiram das: We used to get some nice letters of "get well" and "good wishes" for Srila Prabhupada, and we would read them to him. Once at the Manor, Prabhupada was lying in bed, and I was standing near him, reading a card from our god-brother Siddhasvarupa. Siddhasvarupa had been a bit of an iconoclast in ISKCON. He stayed apart from most of his god-brothers, and he had his own unique style and perspective. By this time Siddhasvarupa had gone back to his own establishment in Hawaii, although he was still a devotee of Prabhu-pada. His card said, "Dear Srila Prabhupada, I am praying for your health" and so forth, and on one line he wrote, "I am a resident of Hawaii, and I hope that if you sometimes think of Hawaii you may also think of me." At that point, Prabhupada suddenly choked up and burst into tears. I looked up from the card to Prabhupada's face, and tears were halfway down his cheeks. He said, "I am always thinking of you. I can never forget." This is indicative of the way he was at that time. Any nice thought brought tears of deep appreciation.
Srila Prabhupada's memory and sleeping habits were amazing. I observed his so-called sleep every single day in those last six months. When Srila Prabhupada slept he would close his eyes, usually fold his hands across his chest, and relax his mouth slightly. I never heard him snore. But when he awoke, I never saw any grogginess. His eyes would open calmly, and he would be fully alert. There was no intermediate period, which I found very surprising, especially considering his condition, how little sleep he got, and all the physical traumas that he underwent, like surgery and traveling in bad conditions.
Another of Prabhupada's surprising characteristics was that sometimes he would have a casual conversation, and midway in the conversation he would become quiet. The conversation wouldn't progress to a conclusion. After a while there would be a new subject, or nothing. Suddenly, a week or two later, he would start talking in the middle of a sentence. At first I thought, "Well, maybe he is just rattling on. He has become old." But in my heart I knew, "That's not Prabhupada. He wouldn't do that." So I'd search my memory, "What is he talking about?" and I'd remember the conversation that we had a week or two before, and that he had again begun talking exactly where it stopped. Prabhupada expected me to remember. He certainly hadn't forgotten, because for him there was no space of time in there. So, while at first I doubted his coherency, later I was absolutely amazed at the incredible power of his memory and the fact that there was no time in his consciousness. It was not a limiting factor for him.
For five or six hours at different times during the day I would massage Prabhupada. There was always someone touching him, on the feet, on the hands, rubbing his arm, rubbing his leg. He had pain in his legs. Srila Prabhupada did not let everybody move him or change him. He was comfortable with certain people who handled him in a matter-of-fact and proper way. Prabhupada didn't like it if a devotee were nervous in touching him. By then there were a lot of devotees in Vrindavan, so I was able to get more sleep. I would go to the next room and lie down knowing that there were at least six or eight people watching and they would call me if anything were needed. One hot night I was sleeping under the fan in Prabhupada's prasadam room in Vrindavan, when a devotee roused me and said, "Srila Prabhupada's calling for you." I went in the room, and apparently some sound had been disturbing Prabhupada's sleep. He had asked the devotees what it was, but they didn't know. They couldn't hear anything. So he said, "Call Abhiram." When I came in, Prabhupada said, "What is that sound?" I listened carefully and just barely made out in the distance a slight "whoo, whoo, whoo," which was the ceiling fan I was sleeping under. I said, "Oh, Prabhu- pada, that is the ceiling fan I am sleeping under. I'll turn it off." He said, "No, no." He put his hand on my hand, "It is for your comfort." I said, "Srila Prabhupada we are here only for your comfort." He said, "No, no, no." I said, "No, I don't mind, Prabhupada. I'll turn it off." Srila Prabhupada was very considerate.
At this time he only lay in bed, so he had to be cleaned in every way and his clothes and sheets changed. To do this, I rolled him to one side, rolled the sheets under him and then rolled him back across to pull the sheet out. Then I did the reverse to replace the sheet. Once, when I was moving the sheet out from under him, his head was resting on my arm, which was under his neck, and he was looking at me, although I didn't realize it because I was busy cleaning him and changing him. He said, "It is nasty?" I looked at his face and realized he was talking about me cleaning him. I said, "No, Srila Prabhupada, it's not nasty." He said, "You don't mind?" I said, "No, Srila Prabhupada, I don't mind. If you don't let me serve you, then I will serve maya." He thought for a moment and said, "That is true." If we ever let him feel undignified or that he was a burden to us in any way, he would give up his life. He had no ability to handle any kind of dependency or indignity. At every moment he was a very noble, dignified person.
As far as the conspiracy theory that Prabhupada was poisoned, if there were an issue that concerned him, Srila Prabhupada was not a turn-the-other-cheek person. He was a strong, warrior type, and many loyal people surrounded him. At that time many of the devotees present were not in accord with each other. They would have loved to get a favor from Prabhupada and to use it against another, but this didn't happen.
Even before 1977, it was well known that Srila Prabhupada had severe diabetes. As Prabhupada's nurse, I was never bewildered by what his disease was. Dr. McIrving in London gave a very clear analysis. He said that for his whole life, Srila Prabhupada had a small urinary tract. Swelling from diabetes caused further constriction of his urinary tract, so that when Prabhupada passed water, he had to push, and there was pressure on his kidneys. Over the years that pressure caused kidney damage, which meant increased uric acid in his body, which caused his digestion to become poor, and it caused nausea. Those were Prabhupada's symptoms exactly. He had silky soft skin, feet, and hands, but they were swollen and puffy. These are classic symptoms of diabetes, and Prabhupada consistently refused to do anything to take care of it. He wouldn't even avoid sweets. He was stubborn in these things. So, he suffered from the complications of acute diabetes and uric acid poisoning from kidney damage, then malnutrition from not eating. At that point, the body starts consuming itself, and there is a complete collapse, which is verbatim what happened to Srila Prabhupada. It was obvious. Certainly, there is a mystical level to all of it, as there is to everything in this world and certainly to a divine person like Prabhupada. But there are also the external practical realities.
Once, in Vrindavan during these ill months, Brahmananda said to Srila Prabhupada, "Srila Prabhupada, you are a Vaishnav. As such, you have all the powers of the demigods." Prabhupada looked at him curiously as if to say, "What is this? Where is this going?" Brahmananda said, "Since you have all mystic powers, you don't have to submit to this disease. You can get up and shake it off." Prabhupada looked at him with great surprise and said, "That is fanaticism." Prabhupada was ill. He was not a god, not Vishnu-tattva; he was a saint, a pure devotee, and this was the lila that Krishna had arranged for him. Out of His mercy and for our benefit, this was the circumstance that Krishna had put Prabhupada in and put us in. That is a simple summary of my observation as Prabhupada's nurse.
Arjuna das: Prabhupada had a dream about an excellent kaviraj from Calcutta. This kaviraj came to Vrindavan and was treating Prabhupada. He was dhira, a sober practitioner, brahminical, and very reverential to Prabhupada. He was from the Sri Sampradaya and wore big white and red tilak. One day he said, "At first I doubted that your Guru Maharaj was a paramahamsa. But I have treated thousands of dying people, and in this condition-when there's no more muscle and fat to cushion the nerves from being pressed against the bone-usually people are in such agony that I have to administer morphine. However, your Guru Maharaj never manifests the slightest expression of pain."
I also saw this in March-April in Bombay. At that time Srila Prabhupada's whole jaw was swollen. When we get a toothache, we can't tolerate it. But Prabhupada tolerated it. We never saw any difference in his mannerisms, in his way of dealing with anyone, and he never complained. In fact, when the devotees were trying to induce him to take care of his body, Prabhupada wasn't agreeable. He transcended his body. It was very evident that Srila Prabhupada was a successful astanga-yogi, that he had totally transcended his bodily conception and was a true living saint.
Udayananda das: Govardhan das and I arrived in Vrindavan and checked into a room in the Krishna-Balaram guesthouse. Three minutes later Upendra knocked on the door and said, "Prabhupada wants to see you right away." Prabhupada had asked for Govardhan because in Detroit, where he was temple president, they'd just had a magnificent wedding for Lekhasravanti, Walter Reuther's daughter. Ambarish was the best man. So it was Ford and Reuther, and the ceremony was covered by Time magazine, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press- there was tremendous publicity throughout the country and it was a magnificent preaching opportunity.
We were on our way to Prabhupada's room when Tamal Krsna Maharaj stopped us and said, "You've never seen Srila Prabhupada look the way he does now. He's not robust and healthy and it might be a shocking and painful sight for you. But don't cry and don't say anything negative. Just say encouraging things." Maharaj didn't want Prabhupada to be anxious. He said, "We're trying to encourage Prabhupada, to uplift his spirits, to make him enthused to go on preaching for at least another 10 years. So don't look shocked, don't be sad." We thought, "Okay, we're prepared to do this."
Prabhupada was lying in his bed and we offered our obeisances. Then we stood at Prabhupada's feet and saw him. We were shocked. Govardhan immediately lost it and quietly sobbed, covering his mouth with his chaddar. Prabhupada smiled and said, "Who has come?" Tamal said, "It's Govardhan and Udayananda from Detroit, Prabhupada." Prabhupada said, "Are your accommodations in the Krishna-Balaram guesthouse okay? Did you get prasadam? Are you comfortable? Is everything all right?" Govardhan, who was saddened by Srila Prabhupada's condition, couldn't talk, so I said, "Yes, Srila Prabhupada, it's first class. Thank you for taking such good care of us." Prabhupada said, "Are the devotees in Detroit happy in Krishna consciousness? And how are Lekhasravanti and Ambarish? How is the temple and how is the Deity worship? Are you preaching in the neighborhood?" Prabhupada went on talking about everyone else's well-being.
The kaviraj who was treating Srila Prabhupada had treated thousands of people with the same condition and he had said, "This disease is so painful that others have writhed in pain-they can barely tolerate the pain-and they become incoherent, delirious." But Prabhupada's consciousness was crystal clear and he was simply concerned about the well-being of others. Never once did he say, "Look at my condition. Look at how I am suffering." I was trying to wrap my mind around how a person in such a condition could be so selfless.
Arjuna das: In 1978, Yasodanandan Swami and I went with the gurukula boys for the Magh Mela in Allahabad, and at that time we met Devraha Baba, an 800 year-old saint who lived in a house on stilts. Usually he never came down from his house because everyone tried to touch his feet. But when we went he came down and for almost ten minutes he spoke in Sanskrit glorifying Srila Prabhupada as a saktyavesa-avatar. He was so old that even his eyebrows hung down in dreadlocks. He called some of his disciples, who were two, three, and four hundred years old. It was very significant how this great, highly respected saint of India wonderfully glorified Srila Prabhupada.
When Prabhupada departed, a cyclone swept through India. I was in Vrindavan and had delayed returning to Mayapur for about two weeks because we all felt that Prabhupada was close to departing. But then I thought, "No, I have to go and do my service." I got to Mayapur Sunday night, and around three in the morning my brahmachari roommate, Siddhartha, woke me up. He said, "Prabhupada's here!" I immediately got up and offered my obeisances. Then Siddhartha said, "Oh, it must have been a dream." We tried to take rest again but a cyclone swept through and a huge nim tree keeled over, wham! It woke up the whole neighborhood. Then the next morning we heard that Prabhupada had departed. We brahmacharis thought, "Wow, Prabhupada came and took his nim tree." And the newspaper reported that a weird snap storm swept throughout India. On the front page there was a photo of a tidal wave in Madras with flames on top of it. We thought, "Wow, how a pure devotee's departure creates inauspicious symptoms."
Prasanta dasi: My favorite day of the year is Srila Prabhupada's Disappearance Day because on that day Prabhupada is fully present through remembrances of him and through the presence of his disciples. Every year I'm thankful for the opportunity to hear Srila Prabhupada's disciples speak wonderful stories about him.
When I saw the banner here, 25 YEARS OF SERVICE IN SEPA-RATION, it occurred to me that mine is a lifetime of service in separation because I am Srila Prabhupada's grand disciple. When I joined in '84, Prabhupada had already left. I never saw Srila Prabhupada.
In honor of Srila Prabhupada's Centennial in 1996, devotees in England produced two CDs called A Garland of Songs. On one CD, Jayadeva das sings a heartrending song, "I Never Knew You." I cried. I was part of the team that helped celebrate Srila Prabhupada's Centennial and for me this recording of glorifications of Srila Prabhupada was our reward. In this song, "I Never Knew You," one line is, "Where was I when you were on the planet?" I meditated a lot on that.
Sometimes I think that one day during mangal arati there will be a horrible announcement that the last Prabhupada disciple has left the planet. I already apprehend the day when there will be no more Prabhupada disciples. When Prabhupada was on the planet, devotees would tell stories about him-what he was doing and saying-and the news would travel. For us grand disciples it's like that. When there is a Prabhupada disciple, we get the stories. We get to hear about the flower boy or the bathroom scrubbing, and all these little things that we don't find in Srila Prabhupada's books or on his tape recordings. And we get to love Srila Prabhupada.
As Krishna gave us Srimad-Bhagavatam, which has all kinds of stories about Him so that we can develop not just knowledge of Him and His teachings, but also an attraction for His personality, similarly, by hearing these beautiful stories about Srila Prabhupada, we can love Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada explains that unless there is love, we cannot fix the mind. We cannot fix the mind on something we don't love. So we must love Srila Prabhupada. And one of the ways to love him is to hear about him. The stories we hear are significant because they teach us the heart of the pure devotee and the concerns of the pure devotee. And they can melt our reluctance to surrender.