Chakra Discussions

The Passing of Bhakta Seva

by Bala Tattva das (New Vrindavana)

Posted October 28, 2006

I'm still in shock over Bhakta Seva's passing. It seems to be a constant initial response to the death of someone close that you can't believe you will never see them again. It seems impossible you won't come around a corner and there they will be, as they have been for so many years. It's as if it takes awhile after the fact for the space they physically and subtly filled to revert to empty: and then that brings its own ache.

A Vaishnava funeral should help us embrace the loss, the separation we feel from a dear one on our collective path, and bring it to a purer level. That doesn't necessarily mean it will hurt less, but that the hurting will transform our loving to a better consistency. Tears are not always an evil.

We may glibly rattle off the line, "Separation is the highest," but when you lose someone you can't see them anymore, you can't hear them in person anymore, you can't interact with them anymore. There is a hole in your heart that never heals and can amaze you with the amount of crushing ache it can produce.

The only real relief for that kind of heartache comes when, as with any form of suffering, we find the way to let it turn into a positive in the purification of our hearts' love for the Godbrothers or Godsisters who have been lost, and when we allow it to draw us on toward our common goal of pure devotional service. Then there is the chance for both some solace and some intensification of the heart.

Why is it that so often with the passing of a devotee we suddenly realize this is a great soul, but while we are actually in the realm where we have the opportunity to associate personally, we take so little time to do so? Or worse, we use the time to politely ignore or even criticize or judge each other? Is our personalism still so infantile, so drenched in the false egotistical hangups of selfishness, shielded with the buffers of what has come to be devotional conventiality in the guise of Vaishnava etiquette that we can't simply care about each other?

What assets exist in ISKCON outside of its sincerely aspiring devotees? Nothing. Without these souls, it is simply a husk. What programs are going on in ISKCON? Only the purification of the heart. You cannot minister to thousands while the individual is only perceived as a tool to exploit. You cannot minister to the individual as long as a crowd or demographic group is perceived as a source of income.

A true Vaishnava is as Lord Caitanya was: a gardener, a cultivator, a nurturer, an empowerer of devotion. And this is what Bhakta Seva was and is. He exhibited this fundamental nature of the devotee in every service he did, in every relationship he had -- close or casual. And the nature of his passing simply cries to us to wake up and begin to take this part of Srila Prabhupada's mission -- to love one another -- to heart.