My Account of Prabhupad's Passing
Raghunatha Anudas - This is my account of Prabhupad's passing.
This morning, I had breakfast with a leading devotee. We talked of guru-kulis today and our childhood's past. We happened upon my days in Vrindavan from `76 to 82. She asked if I had been there at the time of Prabhupada's passing. I had. I relayed how I had been there at the foot of Prabhupad's bed during the entire afternoon until his passing at 7:20 pm. I was 12 years old at the time. There are a great many things I remember from that day but there are two things that stood out in my mind. After discussing it, we thought the community of devotees would also appreciate my account.
The first has to do with the massages devotees were giving Prabhupad. I clearly remember them because I too had massaged Prabhupad repeated throughout that afternoon. His lotus feet. I debated this carefully. Should I ask someone or just reach under the sheets and begin. I did. Many devotees were taking Prabhupad's hands and massaging them. None asked. But they were all leading devotees. Upendra, Prabhupada's servant, for a time. He brought his boy to join him. There were others. Manihara - maybe. After rubbing Prabhupad's feet on and off over the course of several hours, I stopped. Not because of boredom or philosophical concerns but something so much more dreadful. Was this painful to Srila Prabhupada?
In both my experience of touching Prabhupad and seeing his reaction to others, it seemed as if Prabhupad was pulling away every time someone tried to massage him. This was very significant for besides this, Prabhupad had been motionless. It was so obvious, that Narayan Maharaj had even commented upon it. He said something to the effect that Prabhupad was "dancing with the gopis." I did not have such transcendental vision. My reaction both then and now was, is, that these massages were causing a great deal discomfort to Prabhupada. Prabhupada's dance with the gopis seemed to coincide - exclusively - with these massages. Many devotees may recall the reports that Prabhupad had no fat left on his bones. It was nothing more then skin lying directly on nerves and muscles. Prabhupad's skin was therefore extremely sensitive. I stopped massaging Prabhupad when I saw Upendra restraining Prabhupada's hand after Prabhupad had pulled away from him. Not once. Nor twice. But several times. It made such an impression upon me that I decided then: I would give specific directions for my own passing. Do not massage me. I remember -vividly - to this day.
Not surprisingly, the most dramatic incident of the day was the moment of Prabhupad's passing. This too appeared to me quite different then other official accounts. Once again, it concerns the "service" the devotees were offering to Srila Prabhupad. There was a long spouted container (but quite small) that held holy water taken from the sacred rivers and kunda's from around India. This container would poor less then a small teaspoon of water at a time. The devotees would do so when Prabhupada opened his mouth as he did every so often in 20 minute to couple hour intervals. Again, this too was looked upon as quite eventful. This was the only other interaction the devotees saw from Prabhupada.
The last devotee to share in this, a sannyasi, was administrating the water. (He remains a leading sannyasi today and so I will not use his name.) But this time, Prabhupada was opening his mouth much more frequently. Instead of opening every 20 minutes or so, Prabhupad was opening every few, then every couple. This created something of a stir from the devotees. Prabhupad was once again accepting some service. Prabhupad was taking water. This devotee continued with a sense that Prabhupad was thirsty and almost requesting more water. For a moment there, it seemed as if Prabhupad was coming to. But suddenly, another devotee, Manihar, also standing there at the head of Prabhupada's bed, grabbed the devotee's hand. "Stop! Prabhupada can't breath." This poor sannyasi looked to Manihara. Mortified. "What?" He asked. Again Manihara said. "Prabhupad can't breath!" Was Prabhupad trying to speak or breath or chant Hare Krsna? What ever the case, it was my impression as it was for this sannyasi and Manihara's that they were drowning Prabhupad with this water.
It was this very incident that marked Srila Prabhupada's passing. This is what caused the commotion among the devotees sitting in the back of the room to now rush forward. It was this that brought the devotees from the next room. This is when the chanting went from gentle singing, to resounding kirtan, to screaming with all their heart and all their soul, as loud as they could: "Hare Krishna!!" "Hare Krishna!!" Bhardaraj was leading the Hare Krishna Kirtan. Hansadutta suddenly jumped in to lead Jai Prabhupada! The devotees split in responding to both until there was no leader. All sang in unison. Hare Krsna! Jai Prabhupad! Most cried. Uncontrollably. This is the setting in which Prabhupad passed from this world.
I was there at the foot of Prabhupad's bed during all of this just as I appear in Yadubar's filming of this day. I could see everything clearly. I have heard that Prabhupad was `dancing' prior to his passing. Others - who were not there, reported that Prabhupad was chanting Hare Krsna at the time of his passing. Devotees can draw their own conclusion. I am simply stating my first hand experience and observations. Again, I was just a boy of 12. One who was initiated. 16 rounds a day. And twice up for brahmin initiation. (Canceled with all other initiations after Prabhupad's health turned for the worse.) In other words, I was a mature 12 year old much as India often does to most. I was at my best with Prabhupada. More so than most of my peers as all my teachers from those days will attest. I had the same adoration as any 12 year old Catholic boy would if told he were in the company of Christ himself. I was diligent and attentive. I loved Prabhupad, as I do today. This is my account of this unique event. It serves as one more voice of the many who were fortunate enough to have been there.