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DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF SHRILA PRABHUPADA

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF SHRILA PRABHUPADA (adapted from my book, "Give to Live," which also appears many years ago in my blog here ) :
The disappearance or appearance (birth) day of great souls are equally honored. The pure devotees live for Krishna or God, and die for him. The famous prayer by Saint Francis, states that by dying we are born into eternal life. Although we lament that we will not have the physically manifest presence of our guru or a certain saint in this lifetime, we also feel happy that they are with Krishna. Prabhupada “left his body” (as we refer to death) in perfect Krishna consciousness and lived his life like that as well. We have no uncertainty about his auspicious destination, and we pray to for that same perfection by following his example!

"He reasons ill who says that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around."
[Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur]

Today is Shrila Prabhupada's disappearance day from this mortal world and his return to the nitya-lila (Krishna's eternal pastimes). It is the fortieth anniversary. Wow—that is over half my life! How things have changed for me, for so many devotees present then, and for the movement.

On that day, forty years ago, I was a young man of twenty-seven years old. I became a devotee when I was nearly twenty, so really I had seven years of his presence. During those years, most of us never considered that he could leave us at any time, though he did remind us of the possibility. Somehow we just expected him to always be present with us. If only I would have known!

Frankly, I was unable to properly take advantage of his company when he was here. I was too young—immature really—and not eager enough to put relevant questions to him or to be personally motivated to serve the mission from my own realization. My necessity for making spiritual advancement was weak, and truly, necessity determines how we use life.

I saw Prabhupada perhaps five or six times, and have some endearing experiences which I have shared in writing. Yet I have to admit with embarrassment, that when Prabhupada disappeared from my life, I did not shed a tear. Why not? I could come up with many reasons of course, like being hard-hearted. However, I also had the realization that my life would remain the same as it always had been, namely with his disciples—my Godbrothers and Godsisters. While this is true regarding my spiritual practices, this was a naive understanding, as so many tests and challenges resulted from the loss of his personal presence. Never the less, this attitude served me for the immediate future.

Looking back—as is so important on these days—I see clearly that I was more of a religious person caught up in the externals of worship, rather than a deep spiritual thinker, anxious and intent to make progress in loving Krishna. By writing about it, I hope my life will be a lesson for all devotees, in that we have to intensely pray for and desire to make spiritual progress. Otherwise, we can spend years, or even lifetimes, with little spiritual understanding.

Due to the fact that I was unable to truly appreciate the significance of Prabhupada’s association, those days were not "the good old days.” I do have fond remembrances of those pioneer days, and we all have stories to share. Hearing Prabhupada lila is also nectar and definitely an inspiration. Today I reflect soberly that the present is all we have, and that our current actions will determine our tomorrow. I have to be Krishna conscious now and put into practice what Prabhupada taught me years ago. We can and should learn from the past, but we can not live there.

The guru teaches us in so many ways: by his life, instructions, example, and writings. Also, he teaches us and tests us when he leaves the planet. In effect, the guru‘s physical departure from the material world says to the disciple: "What have you learned, or really realized about what I taught you?"

From my perspective, during Prabhupada's manifest time with us, we were able to coast on his coattails, empowered by his shakti (energy) to do things beyond our capacity and realization. Then before we knew it, he appeared to leave us, and we would either sink or swim on the strength or weakness of our realizations. Feeling the presence of the guru when they physical depart is not easy. Many did not fare well. Some of us floundered. Others seemed to disappear altogether.

Although it was very good for us, with profound possibilities, Prabhupada's disappearance was a severe test. Could we be motivated in the same way or even more, when we did not expect to see him again to inspire us with his presence, smile, or ability to correct us? We were now pushed out of the nest, and forced to fly.

And we came crashing down to our new reality of the earth and found ourselves looking up from the dust at where we thought we were spiritually. At least, that was my position, as I had to dust myself off, and rethink my life in every way. This was the most difficult time of my spiritual life. It has taken me many years to feel back on track, yet I am more solid now, deeper, real, and more serious. As our Godbrothers and Godsisters begin dying off, so to speak, they teach us to see what is really important. I have a number in the queue for dying, and my time is fast approaching. Recently this has been brought home more by dealing with cancer, which has been an inspiring, tailor-made, and pointed, wake up call!

Another year—and what have I given back to my dear guide and friend, Shrila Prabhupada, and all the devotees? Although late in my life, the present is not too late to become the devotee Shrila Prabhupada, our guru parampara, and our dear Lord envisioned for me. I feel optimistic for my future, and in general I believe in possibilities. This time is the best time of my life.

On this day, let us all be inspired to make spiritual advancement, to appreciate the power of sadhu sanga (saintly association), and give back our life energy in gratitude to Prabhupada and the mission of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu!

I hope that those of you who are newcomers see the power of Krishna consciousness in what I have shared. Prabhupada transformed our lives while he walked among us, and even when he physically left, his legacy continues in his books, temples, and devotees. The appearance and disappearance of the pure devotee is very deep, profound and full of significance. Please take time to reflect on how what Prabhupada began has touched your life, or in general, the power of a spiritual person to uplift others for generations.

Prabhupada also left us his disciples and appreciators to continue the guru parampara, so each generation of devotees will have personal guidance and opportunities to serve both the book, and person, Bhagavatam. I can personally attest to the power and importance of having a shiksha, or instructing guru, in helping us practice and assimilate the teachings of Prabhupada and our Gaudiya Vaishnava line. This is Prabhupada's great mercy to me!

“Here is the remedy for eliminating all inauspicious things within the heart which are considered to be obstacles in the path of self-realization. The remedy is the association of the Bhagavatas. There are two types of Bhagavatas, namely the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata. Both the Bhagavatas are competent remedies, and both of them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles.” [Prabhupada’s purport to Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18]

"So I hope that all of you, men, women, boys and girls, become spiritual master, and follow this principle. Spiritual master, simply, sincerely, follow the principles and speak to the general public. Then Krsna immediately becomes your favorite. Krsna does not become your favorite; you become Krsna's favorite. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: "One who is doing this humble service of preaching work, Krsna consciousness, nobody is dearer than him to Me." So if you want to become recognized by Krsna very quickly, you take up this process of becoming spiritual master, present the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Your life is perfect." Shrila Prabhupada lecture on Sri Vyasa-puja -- London, August 22, 1973