Was Srila Prabhupada Systematically “Positioned”?
Anantacarya Dasa Part 3.
Kaviraja arrives and proceeds to the bed. The devotees crowd close. He searches for Srila Prabhupada’s pulse with his hand on his wrist. Suddenly he reaches for his stethoscope. He moves it around to different locations on Srila Prabhupada’s chest and midsection. With a worried look, the kaviraja then says something to Bhakti Caru. Only a handful of devotees could actually hear what the kaviraja says. However, somehow the word is passed around. “Only 3 more hours, that is all”. The kaviraja orders that some of Srila Prabhupada’s books be placed nicely around his head on the pillows. Some pictures of the Deities are also placed on the pillows at the head of the bed. The books are placed nicely and the deity pictures are now leaning against the pillows and bedstead. There are japa beads lying near his head. Prabhupada’s lovely head and face are framed with his favorite transcendent paraphernalia. It is so beautiful to see Prabhupada’s head decorated like that.
By now the reality of the moment has reached our minds, and our worst fear is about to happen. Pradyumna and others have now begun preparations for the samadhi. There is talk of a palanquin, fresh saffron cloth, garlands, etc. Hamsadutta looks very worried, but keeps right on going with dedication and devotion. Srila Prabhupada is now occasionally swallowing with his mouth closed. His breathing is noticeable by the slight rise and fall of the sheet which covers his frail body. He is given some kind of liquid by Bhakti Caru, but I am too far away to see exactly what it is. I am assigned guard duty from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. and I sit in the ante-chamber between the outer door and Prabhupada’s room. People from the town are arriving, and I cannot tell who to let in and who to keep out. Everyone is extremely determined to see Srila Prabhupada. They beg to be allowed to enter the room for one last darshan with him. I leave guard duty at 6:00 and re-enter the room. Everyone is now trying to get as close to the bed as possible. All are trying to get a close look at Prabhupada. ISKCON photographers are carefully taking photographs and motion pictures. Many of us are crying. Upendra eyes are continually shedding tears. We are all pressing toward the bed to see Prabhupada. Now he is motionless again.
The kaviraja walks in and proceed to the bed. He bends over in order to take Prabhupada’s pulse, and we all push forward even more. I cannot see what is going on, so I stand on a chair, which is at the back of the room. I still cannot see Srila Prabhupada. But I can see the kaviraja, and instantly upon checking for a pulse he, says something swiftly like “finished” or something to that effect. Tamal immediately gives the order to loudly chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. We all erupt with the Hare Krishna Mantra with an almost hopeless frenzy. We all now realizing exactly what has happened before our absorbed eyes. The kaviraja has said that it is all over. Prabhupada has disappeared. Many of us start sobbing. Devotees are frantically chanting, crying, sobbing, and breaking down completely. One boy goes into a crying convulsion, and has to be dragged to a corner, where he collapses.
Devotees are crying, sobbing, chanting, and running in every direction. Tamal orders us to leave the room. I go upstairs to cry alone. The night air is filled with close and distant sobbing, women wailing, bells ringing, and even dogs are barking and howling. I go back downstairs about an hour later. No more Mataji’s, children, or visitors are present. The devotees in the room are now the saffron clothed ones. Mostly leaders in the Hare Krishna movement. Kirtana is continuing nicely. Srila Prabhupada has already been dressed nicely in saffron, and garland of flowers are placed around his neck. A lovely bouquet of Tulasi manjaris is laid across his chest. There is sandalwood pulp covering his forehead and a large tulasi leaf is fixed in the middle of his forehead. His skin has now turned pale, but one look at his powerful face and you know that, in his body or out of his body, he is still the boss, still the Spiritual Master, still our beloved Prabhupada. Saffron material is now covering his form, and a saffron colored “swami” hat is covering his head. We bring in the palanquin, and he is picked up from the bed by four or five devotees and placed securely in the seat. Some of his Godbrothers return and are led by Narayana maharaja. They pay their heartfelt obeisances, and place flower garlands around their beloved Godbrother. They are clearly affected by the departure of Prabhupada, and offered their most reverent obeisances to their Godbrother. I am now crying almost all the time.
Tamal Krishna announces the plan for the next couple of hours. The palanquin will leave for the temple room where Srila Prabhupada will see the Deities and an Artik. Then a Gurupuja, an offering of flowers by the devotees, and then chanting until the Samadhi is ready. The palanquin containing Srila Prabhupada is lifted, and with strong chanting is carried out of the room. Srila Prabhupada in his palanquin is then taken around the outside of the Krishna Balarama Temple. Three times around the circumference of the temple building with the devotees following and chanting. It is a joyous, happy kirtana. Round and round the Temple with Srila Prabhupada, and then he enters the temple like a transcendental majesty to see the Deities.
First the palanquin is placed in front of Gour-Nitai with the devotees singing joyously for Prabhupada.
On to Krishna Balarama, and then to Radha-Krishna. The kirtana is strong and jubilant.
Then the palanquin is lifted and Srila Prabhupada is taken around the inside of the temple, then outside, and then re-enters again, and is placed before the Krishna-Balarama Deities for continued jubilant Kirtana and dancing. The devotees are singing and dancing and circumambulating the palanquin. The devotees circle close to the palanquin and drink in the nectar of close darshan with Srila Prabhupada. We go around many times, circling closely. Now the palanquin is lifted and proceeds to the Vyasasana, where both palanquin and Prabhupada are placed right on and in the Vyasasana and protected on both sides by ready-to-pounce lions.
Gurupuja begins. Omkara dasa does the arati while Hamsadutta leads us in a rip-roaring kirtana. Really rip-roaring. After the Gurupuja, we prepare for the offering of marigold flowers to Srila Prabhupada. The first devotees to offer flowers and obeisances to Srila Prabhupada are: His sister, his Godbrothers, Tamal Krishna Maharaja, Upendra, Pradyumna, Tamal Krsna and then ISKCON swamis and temple presidents. Some of the Gaudiya Math devotees then offer garlands of flowers and decorative spiritual paraphernalia. We offer the marigolds by a circling motion and then shower them on Srila Prabhupada. Each devotee then prostrates himself before the Vyasasana after offering his flowers. While this is going on, Narayana maharaja, leads us in a very nice kirtana. He is really paying attention and is focused on leading the chanting. One can appreciate how much he is devoted to Srila Prabhupada. I am the last male to offer flowers and obeisances, and then the Mataji’s offer. At the end, Tamal announces that the townspeople of Vrndavana have requested to please let them have darshan once more with Srila Prabhupada. So instead of proceeding directly to the Samadhi, Srila Prabhupada will wait in the Vyasasana during the night and then proceed to the seven temples of Vrndavana in the morning. After the parikrama of Vrndavana in the morning, he will return for Samadhi. We are ordered by Tamal to stay up all night with Prabhupada for continuous kirtan. Srila Prabhupada is now being fanned by camara while the kirtan continues.