A Introductory Mix of the Last Six Months of Srila Prabhupada Being Present
The Kirtana goes on, and the night is beginning to get very cold.
The population in the temple room is beginning to thin out, and there are only a few of us who are actually doing kirtana. There are about 20 to 30 devotees in the temple room, but many are chanting japa. I am beginning to get tired myself, so I quickly dash upstairs for a cold shower, and then dash back to the kirtana.
The air has become penetratingly cold. Four or five of the younger Indian ISKCON devotees and myself are now clustered together close to the Vyasasana, and we keep the kirtana going strong. Up by the Vyasasana, are two of the older dedicated Indian devotees, who refuse to leave Srila Prabhupada, even though they can hardly stay awake, and no matter how cold it gets. The little frail one sits motionless in front of the Vyasasana with only a chaddar wrapped around his shoulders. Pradyumna sits with us and chants on his japa beads. He is looking quite worn out, but stays with Srila Prabhupada. The Indian ISKCON devotees lead the kirtan and keep it going nicely. There are a few matais in the rear of the temple room, chanting japa. Viraha-prakash maharaja is now standing at attention by the side of the Vyasasana steps.
I am asked to fan Srila Prabhupada with one of the camaras. I step up next to the palanquin at Srila Prabhupada’s right side, and relish every moment of being able to whisk Srila Prabhupada. I am talking to him silently, and the tears will not stop rolling down my face. It is just dark enough that the devotees cannot see that I am crying. Srila Prabhupada is so kind that even though he finally decides to leave us, he still mercifully stays with us for an extra night so that we may have one last chance to see his divine form, chant kirtana for him, and whisk him with the camara.
Many of the devotees are beginning to return to the temple room. Srila Prabhupada’s sister also returns at this time and politely sits on the floor near the Vyasasana. She obviously wants to sit even closer to Srila Prabhupada but this carpet is filled with male devotees, so she humbly sits down over to the side on the cold floor, next to one of the pillars. At this point the women are permitted to come forward and offer incense to Srila Prabhupada.
I volunteer to whisk Prabhupada again, and took the left side this time. How nice it is to be able to fan him during his last hours with us
Everyone is back now. Mongol Arotik starts a little later, and many devotees turn their backs to Srila Prabhupada, in order pay prostrated obeisances to the deities. Narayana maharaja and Godbrothers remain motionless and do not budge. In no time at all, Narayana maharaja is laying it on the line to Gopal Krishna dasa, that the devotees are to stay at the Vyasasana facing Srila Prabhupada, and there is to be a simultaneous arati for Srila Prabhupada at the Vyasasana, while the arati also goes on for the Deities. Gopal Krishna quickly gets everything arranged nicely, and a nice arati is held at each of the 3 altars plus at the Vyasasana. Narayana maharaja leads the kirtana and winds up everything with repeated and resounding “Jaya Prabhupada’s!” One after another. Then Tulasi Arotik.
The Parikrama begins and the palanquin is lifted from the vyasasana and carried to the center of the courtyard of the temple room where we circumambulate Srila Prabhupada with more chanting.
We then proceed through the front gate of the Mandir, down the road towards town, an on to parikrama of each of the 7 main temples of Vrndavana. Narayana maharaja is arranging everything nicely, leading the procession, leading the kirtana, and seeing with great attention that everything goes along perfectly. Narayana maharaja is now conducting the parikrama, acting on our behalf as our very capable leader, and seeing to it that everything is conducted nicely. For the next 6 hours, he is tireless, continuously providing the devoted and competent leadership needed so that all the details of the parikrama and Samadhi are executed perfectly.
It certainly is quite an impressive procession as it moves down the road. The procession actually consists of two parts.
First, there is a large group of devotees consisting of Narayana maharaja and most of the sannyasis and others. This group leads the procession and also leads a very strong kirtana.
Then there is a gap of about 20 yards to the next group which consists of the palanquin with Srila Prabhupada, the palanquin bearers, close attendants, devotees, and others.
Immediately following this group are the matais, and then several rickshas carrying Srila Prabhupada’s sister and some of the children from the gurukula. There are eleven dandas gliding through the air. When one looks toward the palanquin, he usually sees Citsukananda bearing the load up front and Vishun-tattva das supporting the rear of the palanquin. Although they are from time to time temporarily relieved, these two men are seen carrying the heavy palanquin for most of the procession. And it is indeed heavy. Some boys who try to carry it cannot even get the carrying bar up to their shoulders so that it can move, and as a result, are not able to share in this mercy.
For the entire procession, Bhavananda maharaja is inseparable from Srila Prabhupada’s side. Tamal Krishna is also there at the palanquin, taking charge of this part of the procession, and giving directions, and leadership to the second group of devotees. From time to time the going gets a little rough, and there is anxiety written all over Upendra’s face, because there is not much that he can do about it. Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada and his devotees sail through the streets of Vrndavana. The streets are lined with people shouting,
Families are coming out on the rooftops to see the procession, and the townsfolk of Vrndavana, young and old, are paying standing obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. We stop in front of each of the temples, and there are resounding “Jai Gurudeva’s!”
At one point on the road, there is a young woman standing at the side of the road watching the procession go by. After the last devotee walks by, her eyes begin to get wide, and they light up with amazement and veneration. She follows the procession down the road with her eyes, and then turns and walks to the center of the road. She bends down, and with hands outstretched, palms down, she rubs her hands in a circular motion in the dust. Lifting her hands, she then, again in a circular motion, smears the dust of the lotus feet of the vaisnavas all over her cheeks. At that point, with eyes still as wide as large coins, she beams with a smile, and with that smile radiates to us that she understands it is not every day at 7:30 am in the morning, that a person gets a chance like this.
A little farther down the road, another young woman, dressed in the finest of exquisite garments, steps from her house into the street ditch in order to see the palanquin go by. When she recognizes who is in the palanquin, and ignoring the fine cloth that she is wearing, she immediately bends her knees into the gutter. She brings her head and arms go the ground, and pays obeisances to Srila Prabhupada.
How is it possible to keep from crying when one sees just how much Srila Prabhupada is loved and revered by everybody. We return to the Mandir and the Samadhi begins immediately. Srila Prabhupada has a bathing ceremony, a charge of garments, flower garlands. There is a final puja and offering of prasadam. He is finally covered with salt and then sand. It is a lengthy and beautiful ceremony, and does not terminate until 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon. The temple bell is ringing continuously, and the kirtana goes on without interruption. At about 1:00 p.m. the Samadhi ceremony ends and the devotees then take prasadam.
Even though it is clear that I am certainly not competent to write about the events of the past few days, I am begging the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and the disciplic succession to allow me to write this little bit of information for those devotees who were not able to be with their spiritual master during his last days with us. Please, Srila Prabhupada, forgive my offenses. It is only by your mercy that I can possibly do anything. You have given me so much, and I have given you so little.