He is Here (Part 2)
by Sangita devi dasi
I wanted to share one story, if I may, about something that happened just recently. Some of you know that I do hospice nursing. I take care of terminally ill devotees. In June I received a phone call from my Godbrother Gopavrindapala, whom I had not seen in twenty-five years. We had served together in the Los Angeles temple in the early '70s. We just lost touch. He was married to Mula Prakrti dasi, my Godsister, who was very famous for a lot of things. One of her great legacies was teaching the devotees how to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books. She opened up the Los Angeles airport, and she was one of the first to do big books in the airport. She pleased Srila Prabhupada very much with her service. So, in June I received a call from her husband, Gopa, and he told me that she was dying of cancer. He said that the doctor had given her one month to live and would I please come to Vrndavana and help her and care for her while she was dying. When something like this happens you just know that it is Srila Prabhupada wanting you to do this service. There is no other
way to take it.
Within a week I left and met them in Amsterdam, and I helped Gopa to get his wife to the dhama. It was not easy for him. It was emotional for him, but it was also very difficult physically to get her there. She was very, very sick. So, we got her to the dhama, and we were staying at MVT. You all know MVT. For two weeks we had nothing but hearing and chanting twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. So many devotees quickly rallied around her, and it was just so wonderful to see all the devotees cooperating and helping this one mataji leave her body. Immediately the women who lived there, my wonderful Godsisters, came and decorated her bedroom with so many nice posters of Deities. Radha Kunda dasi put a nicely framed painting of Srila Prabhupada over the head of the bed, and that became the focal point of the room and for the devotees when they entered the room. And for twenty-four hours there was nothing but hearing and chanting. Devotees took shifts. They would bring in a harp and other instruments and chant, and others would take shifts
and read to her, and in between we had Srila Prabhupada's bhajanas playing constantly.
I am telling the story because of this part. Right before she left her body she looked at me. She had not opened her eyes in two weeks, but she opened her eyes, and it was very clear communication. She could not speak. Her breathing was very, very difficult. For two days, forty-two hours, her lungs had been filling up with fluid, and she had that death rattle, as it is called. It is like a gargling. It was amazing that she could even open her eyes. She opened her eyes, and she was communicating something to me. She was air-hungry, and she was in anxiety because it was just so difficult for her to breathe. I turned to my Godsister Vrindavana Vilasini and said, "She is in so much anxiety. Please say something," because they had been close, dear friends for years. They used to do book distribution together. I knew that she would find a way to calm her down. So, Vrindavana Vilasini felt so inspired by Srila Prabhupada at that moment that she went close to Mula's ear and said, "Mula, just
surrender and Srila Prabhupada will breathe for you." And immediately Mula Prakrti just calmed down, and she was focused again on Srila Prabhupada, because she had said just a week before . . . Everyone had been reading to her different pastimes of Krsna and Radharani, which were wonderful pastimes, but she said to me, "That is not my mood, Sangita." I asked, "What is your mood, Mula? Do you want to hear about Srila Prabhupada?" She replied, "Yes." And I asked, "Would it be okay if we read Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta to you?" And she agreed, "Nice," with this big smile, the famous Mula smile.
Vrindavana Vilasini, our Godsister, knew exactly what to say at that moment: "Just surrender and Srila Prabhupada will breathe for you." Then we bathed her with Radha-kunda water. I just had this feeling that she was going leave within a few minutes, and I wanted her nicely prepared to greet Srila Prabhupada. For the last two weeks we had kept telling her, "When Srila Prabhupada is ready, he will come for you. You may think that you are ready, but he knows when you are ready. And when he is ready, he will come for you." So I just had this feeling that it was going to be that morning, because of her symptoms. Actually, the night before, I had prayed to the painting of Srila Prabhupada over her bed. The devotees were chanting in her room, and I prayed, "Srila Prabhupada, please come for her." And I just had this feeling; I knew that Srila Prabhupada was communicating to me, "You cannot summon me. You cannot summon me. When I am ready to come, I will come." So it taught me a lesson in patience as well.
That morning I bathed her in Radha-kunda water and got her dressed, and we decided to sit her up so she could breathe more easily. We propped her up with pillows around her. I was listening with my stethoscope to hear her heartbeat, and her eyes started to roll back.
I immediately said to her daughter, "Go get your father and your brothers. Go get them right now," because it looked like that time.
There were maybe five women in the room. It was amazing how Krsna arranged that some of the devotees who were closest to her, who most wanted to be there at that time, were unable to be present. But this handful of women were able to be there and witness this great event. So, we do not know how we can plan for these things; in the end Krsna makes the arrangement who is there and who is not there to witness such a thing.
Anyway, I was holding her up, and her daughter ran and got her father and one brother. I was chanting in her left ear the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and Vrindavana Vilasini was chanting in her right ear.
Her husband walked in, and when he saw her condition he immediately rose to the occasion to perform his last duties as her husband. He was amazing. At that moment he detached himself materially and knew just what to do for her spiritually. He had a silver tray already
prepared with auspicious items. He placed tulasi and caranamrta in her mouth. I said, "Gopa, we need Vrndavana dust." He handed it to me, and I sprinkled some in her mouth. Her mouth opened and quivered, which is an auspicious sign that she was going back to Godhead, and you could just feel the presence of Srila Prabhupada in that room. We
had said to her, "Srila Prabhupada will come for you when he is ready." Those words will always stay with me; I do not think I really understood what I had been saying until that moment. Srila Prabhupada came for her. You could feel his presence in the room. In fact, I
felt that the room was very crowded. There was so much going on at the same time -- holding her up and trying to hear her heartbeat and feel her pulse and at the same time chanting in her ear -- it just seemed like the room was very, very crowded with many great
personalities hovering above. It was very crowded. It is hard to explain. I looked up for a moment from all the things that I was doing and saw only a handful of women at the foot of her bed, but there were great personalities there to help her on her journey. And
Srila Prabhupada was definitely there. There was no doubt that he came for her. It was a glorious moment. It felt as if the room had opened up, as if the whole sky, the material sky, had opened up for this one jiva to leave this material world and go back to Godhead.
We were all crying because of course we would miss her personally, but we understood that there was this great kirtana going on, on the other side -- in Krsnaloka there was this amazing party happening -- and that Srila Prabhupada was there in his true form. She was so fortunate that she was getting to see Srila Prabhupada in his spiritual form and that he was reintroducing her to Radha and Krsna. So it gave us some solace at that moment. We were crying and laughing and crying and laughing. The emotions were just running. It was such a transcendental event. It was Srila Prabhupada's lila, and I felt extremely grateful to Srila Prabhupada for allowing me to take part in it.
Anyway, I mainly wanted to share that story, not to dwell so much on other stories from the '70s, because it is so clear that Srila Prabhupada is still with us. Srila Prabhupada once told Indradyumna Swami that when we go back to Godhead, "I stand in the middle, and
Krsna is on one side of me, and you are on the other side of me, and I take Krsna's hand, and I take your hand, and I join them together." So this is going home, back to Godhead. And I just want to encourage everyone that if we just continue with this process, continue to
follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions, continue to just hang in there through the trials and tribulations, Srila Prabhupada will give us strength to get through it. He will give us the words when we need them. He is everything. His mercy is all that we are.
So, when we relate to each other we can understand, "You are also Vaisnava. Please accept my obeisances. You are representing Srila Prabhupada as well. Everyone is a representative of Srila Prabhupada if they are following his instructions."
I do not want to speak of Srila Prabhupada as being only in the past, and I get very disturbed when I hear devotees speaking of "when he was here." He is here. He is here. Of course, we miss his personal association. That is what makes this a very bittersweet day. We miss
his personal association tremendously, and that will always be there.
I cannot believe that it has been all these years, because I remember the moment that I heard he left the planet. I immediately thought, "What is going to happen to me?" Because I was so selfish, I thought, "What is going to happen to me?" Then I thought, "What is
going to happen to ISKCON now that he is not here?" Now after all these years I am asking different questions. I am asking, "Srila Prabhupada, please tell me what I can do for you for the last part of my life." This is like the sprint at the end of the race, and I just pray to him all the time. He has given me a mission in Vrndavana, and for that I am extremely grateful.
I do not know what else to say. Srila Prabhupada is here, he is with us, and he gives us guidance. Please have faith and pray to him, because he did not go anywhere. He is still with us spiritually.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Sangita devi dasi