October – November 1977: VRINDAVAN, INDIA – Arrival, Parikrama & darshan, Translation, Final pastimes
Abhirama das: There were a lot of events taking place that for us were very emotionally churning and disturbing. There were moments when we would feel that Prabhupada was going to recover when he would start to take something and indicate that he would stay with us, and we would feel the greatest elation and the greatest joy. We felt like we had been dunked under water in a dunking chair and suddenly we were being brought up for a breath of air. And then just as extreme and suddenly we would see a symptom that he was not perhaps recovering his health and it was continuing to deteriorate, and then we would be plunged into the greatest…in the abyss of lamentation and great fear and anxiety that he might leave us. So it was emotionally an extremely difficult time. I was present at the time when Krishna das Babaji came to visit Srila Prabhupada and sat on his bed at his feet and massaged Srila Prabhupada’s feet and held his hand. And Srila Prabhupada asked him for forgiveness, saying, “Please forgive me for offenses that I committed to my godbrothers, the Vaishnavas.” He said, “What could I do? I had to preach strongly.” And Krishna das Babaji, of course, rubbed his hand, rubbed his arm and said, “There is no offense, Swamiji. There is no offense from you.” I think he said, “Please be at peace.” Prabhupada actually cried for that forgiveness.
Prabhavisnu Swami: I went to Vrindavan, and I had a letter from Jayapataka Maharaj explaining about the idea of going to Nepal, to go and start a center. So Prabhupada got the letter, and then he called me. He was sitting on the veranda upstairs, and he looked very ill. I had never seen him looking so ill. And then he welcomed me and he thanked me for preaching in Bangladesh. Then he told a story about one Bengali poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutta. He had gone to London, and he squandered all his money. Then he was asking everyone to please help him, and no one would give him any money except this one gentleman called Vidyasagar. So he gave him some money, and so this poet glorified that man. He said, “You’ve got the courage of an Englishman and the heart of a Bengali mother.” So then Prabhupada said that “You are an Englishman, a Britisher, and you have to show that courage. The British were famous for expanding an empire.” He said, “They expanded an empire all over the world. Even America is your creation. So similarly you should expand the empire of Krishna consciousness and do it with the courage of an Englishman and the heart of a Bengali mother.”
Rajendranandana das: Srila Prabhupada would have darshan of the Deities, and it was not uncommon that he had these sunglasses as you can see in the video. Tears would stream down his eyes, roll down his cheek, just with his hands folded, slight nod to each Deity and give him some caranamrita, and then taken into the courtyard under the shade of the tamal tree. Sachidananda brahmacari sang many, many of the nice bhajans in that courtyard. Srila Prabhupada would sometimes ask for him by name. He had such a sweet, melodious voice. And the boys would get up two or three, four of them at a time and they would dance in front of Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada would nod his head. It was so nice.
Pita das: One afternoon many of our older godbrothers were in the room with Srila Prabhupada, and many of those who were supposed to initiate disciples after his disappearance were there. Then Prabhupada said to them, “Of my disciples, I see no one who has my qualities. If I see a group of them together, some percentage of my qualities are certainly there.” He said, “So I have some faith that this movement can go on. The test of your love for me will be shown by how well you cooperate together.”
Bhaktisiddhanta das: I’d sometimes cut through and be on the side of the path as Prabhupada was brought around. He had on the dark glasses, but he could see. His eyes were fixed right on you for long, long periods of time coming the whole length of the temple. You could just see that you were being scrutinized. Then all of a sudden they opened the barrier. Anybody could go into Prabhupada’s house and join the kirtan. Prabhupada wanted all the devotees to come in. So those last two months practically every day I was in there. There were a lot of mystical experiences that took place. What happened was…I had never really led a kirtan, I had always joined in the background. So Satadhanya was taking care of Prabhupada, and he walked out of the room. And then Jayadvaita is there, and then he handed me the little kartals. So I started playing my first kirtan. There I am in front of Srila Prabhupada. So not even 60 seconds go by and all of a sudden the whole place transformed, the whole place just opened up in the spiritual world. So many devotees had similar experiences. So for me it was like a verification of what Prabhupada was saying always that through him you get the connection to the spiritual world. And that happened, just like that. All of a sudden, boom, everything opened up. Krishna was there. And how can I say, how can I know that? It was just the power, the potency of that moment and a visual thing that just transformed the whole room. And so Krishna’s on the line, “What do you want?” And I just broke into tears. What can you want more? That was enough for me, and so I didn’t ask for anything. But by the mercy of the spiritual master, we were thrown right into the spiritual world whether we know it or not.
Racitambara dasi: Shortly before Srila Prabhupada left, we were in Hyderabad farm. We heard that Srila Prabhupada was very ill in Vrindavan and might be leaving us very soon, and we wanted so badly to go. But we couldn’t leave the temple alone, there was nobody else there. And then one brahmacari came and kindly agreed to stay just for a very few days and let us go to Vrindavan. We had very little money, but somehow we booked on the most basic tickets all the way from South India up to Mathura. It took a long time, and we had to sit on our suitcases with the chickens and the goats. It was a big austerity to get there. And then when we got to Mathura, we only had enough time to go and take one darshan of Srila Prabhupada and get back to Mathura for the train back down south again, which was a two or three-day ride. So we took a tonga and we rushed to Vrindavan temple, and we knocked on the door of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and we were told, “Srila Prabhupada is not seeing anybody, only a few sannyasis. There’s no way.” And we tried to explain, “But we’ve come all the way from Hyderabad, and it’s our last chance to see Srila Prabhupada.” “No.” It was Bhavananda Prabhu who was telling us, “No, I’m really sorry.” He was very kind about it, but it’s just not happening. So then we were so sad. So we came out, and then we were standing on that path outside the rose garden. And then there’s French windows, French doors, and then there was the bed where Srila Prabhupada was lying. So we were standing on that path and just saying our last prayers to Srila Prabhupada and knowing that he was just on the other side of those doors and curtains but we couldn’t see him. And suddenly the curtains opened and the doors opened and there was nobody else around on the path, there was only us, and we said our last goodbyes to Srila Prabhupada. We paid our obeisances and we saw Srila Prabhupada lying there so ill and we could take a last darshan, and Prabhupada gave us quite a darshan. And then the curtains closed and the windows closed. Then Bhavananda came out and he said, “Those curtains and doors haven’t been opened in months and suddenly Srila Prabhupada said, ‘Open the curtains, open the doors.’” So, again, Srila Prabhupada just knew. He knew that we were there. He knew that we’d gone through quite some austerity to take a last darshan. He knew what was in our hearts and we just wanted to see him one last time, and he granted that.
Visakha dasi: At some point, Yadubara asked if we could film him while he translated, and finally we got permission. We set up some lights so that they were not too bright – the bright lights bothered Prabhupada’s eyes – and we filmed him as he translated from the 10th Canto, Chapter 13, Text 53 of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Our microphone was right next to his mouth, and I had the headphones on so I heard him speaking. And he said right into my ears, “Everything is acting, moving by the supreme desire of Krishna. This consciousness is Krishna consciousness.” So although I heard that from him directly, I could in no way relate it to that situation, that Prabhupada was about to leave this planet, was speaking one of his last purports. That this was the supreme desire of Krishna was beyond my comprehension. What we wanted at that point was Prabhupada’s vibrant preaching, his good health, traveling around the world, guiding us and correcting us, enthusing us, showing us what it’s like to be a Krishna conscious devotee. And to think that now it was Krishna’s desire that he leave was unacceptable. And also in that purport, reading it today there is no way of guessing the dire circumstances that Prabhupada spoke it in. Right there in that one purport was Prabhupada’s determination and his cent percent dedication to the mission of his spiritual master, completely resolute in his purpose.
Srila Prabhupada: Varnasrama dharma is so essential that people remain in sattva-guna. Tamo-guna, rajo-guna, rajas-tamo-bhavah increases lust and greediness, and that implicates the living entity to exist in this material world in many, many forms. That is very dangerous. Therefore, they should be brought into sattva-guna by the establishment of varnasrama dharma. How to bring people in sattva-guna? The brahminical qualification: very neat and clean, rise early in the morning, see Mangala-arati, and in this way to stay in sattva-guna. Then one cannot be influenced by tamo-guna and rajo-guna. That is the special feature of human life.
Atreya Rsi das: He spoke about ISKCON as a child, as a baby that needs nourishment, that needs protection, and he expressed to me true concern that after his departure he was concerned for the baby. And he emphasized, kind of begging that unite together, stay together so that this ISKCON, this baby can be protected. And there was a clear link that he wasn’t talking about the buildings, he wasn’t talking about the forms. There was a clear link between the content of our relationship – the love we felt for each other, the willingness we had to sacrifice our own egos in order to reach understanding, in order to reach collaborative mood with one another rather than organizational asset and all of that – in order to hold and protect and grow the baby. That was very, very clear to me, and it was very, very clear from every word coming out of his mouth.
Udayananda das: I had always had this desire to touch the lotus feet of the pure devotee, and this was back to the time when I was getting brahmana initiated in 1974 and I asked Srila Prabhupada could I touch his feet and Prabhupada said, “No, that is not necessary.” So here I am in Srila Prabhupada’s room, and I look over and I see Trivikrama Swami and he’s massaging Prabhupada’s feet. And I’m thinking, “Why is he getting all this mercy?” But then I’m thinking, “Oh, I don’t even deserve to be in this room.” Then all of a sudden Maharaj yawned, and I said, “Oh, Krishna.” So I humbly came over to Maharaj and said, “Would it be OK if I took over and massaged Srila Prabhupada’s feet?” And he said, “OK.” I thought, “Oh, my God, I don’t believe this is really going to happen!” So then Maharaj took me over and he showed me. So I was so gentle and I was massaging the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, and I got to massage him for two-and-a-half hours. Then at one point Prabhupada looked up and said, “Who is massaging my feet?” Tamal Krishna Maharaj said, “Oh, that’s Udayananda das.” And Prabhupada said, “Oh.” And then there was this smile on Prabhupada’s face as if after all these years he was fulfilling my desire. Then by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, he allowed me to massage his feet every day for the next three weeks. But I was thinking that I was the most fortunate soul in the whole universe at that time.
Abhirama das: I remember sitting next to Srila Prabhupada one night. We used to sit up and attend to him. And there is a special time in the middle of the night, I suppose it’s one or two in the morning, when in Vrindavan the peacocks go off in sequence and start calling, responding to each other, and it’s a chain reaction throughout all of Vrindavan. Anyone who has lived in Vrindavan knows this moment in the night, it’s a magical moment. So Srila Prabhupada was resting at that time. I was sitting silently chanting on my beads and when the peacocks went off, Srila Prabhupada, he had his hands folded as if in prayer across his chest and he started to roll his head and moan. He rolled his head from side to side and he moaned. Three, four times he started a new moan in obvious response to the peacocks calling. And it was a deeply ecstatic moan, a moan when somebody is enjoying something in an extreme sense but on a level that is just impossible to imitate or describe to you. And the room at that time for me, the space that we were experiencing at that moment became multidimensional to the point where the paintings on the wall actually became three-dimensional, especially the painting over Srila Prabhupada of Krishna and Balarama. And I realized at that moment that Srila Prabhupada was already in that space and we were viewing him from a very limited awareness.
Pita das: The last time I heard Srila Prabhupada speaking was the night before his disappearance. I think it was around early evening, and we were listening to Prabhupada speak to Swarupa Damodara about life comes from life and not through a combination of chemicals. And then Srila Prabhupada said, “The scientists, they cannot understand that life is coming from life.” And then he said, “They cannot understand Bhagavad-gita. They cannot understand this verse brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati. They cannot understand the brahma-bhuta personality, that he is experiencing happiness from within. That even though his body is completely destroyed,”…he stressed destroyed…“he is in ecstasy.” And then he said, “I am that brahma-bhuta personality.” And that is the last thing Prabhupada said.
Partha das: In 1977 when I was on the plane en route to Vrindavan to see Srila Prabhupada, I vividly remember reading the First Canto of the Bhagavatam, nasta-prayesv abhadresu nityam bhagavata-sevaya, which describes how “by regularly hearing the Bhagavatam or rendering service unto the pure devotee, everything inauspicious within the heart is destroyed practically to nil.” And in that purport, Prabhupada describes how the person Bhagavat and the book Bhagavat are actually identical because the person Bhagavat lives his life in terms of the book Bhagavat. When I got to Vrindavan, I remember walking in Prabhupada’s room, offering my dandavats, and then getting up and looking at Srila Prabhupada and… It’s very difficult to explain in words what I saw, but I could see that Srila Prabhupada was the complete embodiment of his books and Srila Prabhupada was fully embodied in his books. It was like Krishna just gave me some kind of vision that was beyond anything I’d experienced before.
Giriraj Swami: One night in the middle of the night when I was sleeping on the roof of the gurukula building, one of Prabhupada’s assistants came and woke me up. And immediately so many thoughts rushed through my mind: Is Prabhupada leaving? Is something wrong? What’s happening? He said, “Prabhupada is calling you.” So I rushed into Srila Prabhupada’s room, and then every word of Srila Prabhupada’s was so full of meaning because one never knew, one thought it might be Prabhupada’s last words or last instructions. Srila Prabhupada asked me, “Do you think the movement will go on after I go?” And I said, “Yes, as long as we are sincere and chant our rounds and follow the regulative principles, it will go on.” And then Srila Prabhupada, with great difficulty because he was so sick and so weak, pronounced the words “intelligence and organization.” And I realized that yes, we do have to chant our 16 rounds and follow the regulative principles and be sincere in our devotional service. But to preach Krishna consciousness we have to be intelligent and organized, and Srila Prabhupada wanted to balance what I had said with the powerful instruction “intelligence and organization.” Then Srila Prabhupada asked, “Is there anything else?” And within my heart I wanted to cry out, “Srila Prabhupada, stay, please stay, don’t leave!” But somehow I couldn’t say it, and I just said, “No, there’s nothing else.” And later I regretted that I didn’t say what was in my heart.
Visakha dasi: Every day was emotional upheaval. We would hear different reports from the kaviraja, we would hear what Prabhupada drank, what little bit he might have eaten. The overwhelming mood was one of despair that clearly Prabhupada was preparing to leave this world, and certainly we had no idea what would become of us and what would become of his mission in his absence. Very often his godbrothers would come to visit him to say farewell, and Prabhupada would exhibit extreme humility and apologize for saying things that perhaps offended his godbrothers. And he would ask for their forgiveness, saying that in the course of preaching perhaps he was sometimes too strong. And his godbrothers invariably would say, “No, there is no offense taken,” that Srila Prabhupada has gloriously served their spiritual master and they took him as their leader. Other times disciples would come from throughout the world, and Prabhupada would have words of encouragement for them. He would inquire about their activities. And he was also concerned for all of us in Vrindavan. He would ask if the prasad was satisfactory, if there was adequate prasad. So in this way, he exhibited his incredible concern and his awareness of what was going on even in that condition.
Bhagavat das: While I was massaging him, I was astonished to see some of his activities. Sometimes he’s crying, sometimes he’s stunned, I remember his hairs standing on end, he was belching, and I was shocked to see all of this. And then I started to remember in Nectar of Devotion that each one of these was an ecstatic symptom of a greatly advanced devotee who is in the highest stages of spiritual consciousness.
BV Padmanabha Swami: We stayed in that room the whole afternoon, and now the reality was starting to hit. But even though the Ayurvedic doctor had said what he said, still within our hearts there was a ray of hope that Prabhupada can again start reviving himself. This was our prayer and this was our hope, but at the same time there was a kind of acceptance now that was taking place for us and especially as the afternoon wore on and Prabhupada was not showing any signs at all of reviving to external consciousness. So now the time was drawing closer and closer. And as it drew closer and closer, the kirtan got more and more intense.
Shaktimati dasi: The kirtan was being sung in a kind of unusual chorus of two parts in a way that we never sang before. Some of the people in the room were singing “Jaya Prabhupada, Jaya Prabhupada” while other of the devotees were chanting the Maha-mantra, and somehow it blended together in the most perfectly beautiful way. As I was listening to it, I was thinking, “We don’t sound like this. This isn’t coming from us.” It was like there was no ceiling on the room, that all the concrete or bricks or iron beams or whatever that was there had just dissolved and the whole room was open like a direct current to the spiritual world as Krishna’s messengers came for Srila Prabhupada.
BB Govinda Swami: It’s not that you could hear anything, but I was really close to Prabhupada’s face and I was looking at him and I just noticed that his lips moved. And when his lips moved, it appeared as though Prabhupada was pronouncing Hare Krishna. And at that moment, his jaw dropped. And at that very second when he said Hare Krishna and his lips opened, I saw the color of Prabhupada’s body change. When I saw that happen, I thought, “Now my spiritual master has left his body.” And everyone else in the room, they knew that that was the moment also. They started weeping like they had lost their life because Prabhupada was our life. I was watching Pisima, and she was weeping. She just bowed down to Prabhupada’s feet, and she started taking the dust from Prabhupada’s feet and she started smearing the dust on her head and smearing the dust on her eyes. Then I decided that I should do as Pisima had done. So then I went and I took the dust from Prabhupada’s feet, and I rubbed it on my head and my eyes. Then there was a request that the devotees would step outside so that they could prepare Prabhupada, and the majority of the devotees left. I stayed behind. And Upendra, very masterfully he took control of the situation, and he brought fresh clothes and he very, very quickly dressed Prabhupada. I remember he took a cloth and he tied it around Prabhupada’s head so that Prabhupada’s mouth would remain closed, and they put Prabhupada on his palanquin. Then we were waiting for the Gaudiya Matha devotees to come over and give some instruction on what to do. They came and they offered a garland to Prabhupada. Tamal Krishna Maharaj and Bhavananda Maharaj, they consulted with the Gaudiya Matha devotees, and then it was decided to take Prabhupada for a last darshan of the Deities and then make parikrama of the temple and then place Prabhupada on his vyasasana for the Guru Puja. So I remember when they carried Prabhupada into the temple room, one of our godbrothers, his name is Puri das, he was the pujari for Gaura-Nitai. And either it was at the beginning of the arati or at the end of the arati, I’m not really sure – the last arati was the Shayan-arati – Puri was on the altar with the conch shell in his hand. I remember Puri turned and he saw Prabhupada on the palanquin, and Puri fainted right on the spot in front of Gaura-Nitai. They put the palanquin right up on Prabhupada’s vyasasana. The palanquin just fit up there quite perfectly. Bhavananda, who had been caring for Prabhupada through Prabhupada’s final pastimes and had been with him and had been giving such a strong face and such a strong appearance, I remember when they put Prabhupada on the vyasasana, Bhavananda went behind the vyasasana and he just collapsed and he started sobbing like a child. The Gaudiya Matha devotees, they were leading kirtan. And when they sang Je Anilo Prema Dhana, I remember I personally collapsed. And the devotees, practically they couldn’t sing because everyone was crying so much. There was a succession of bhajans and kirtans, and everyone offered garlands and flower petals to Prabhupada. I remember people from the city, they were coming and they were offering. Then through the course of the night the kirtans went on. And because I knew that I had to cook the next day, I sort of tuned out about midnight and I went and took rest for a couple hours. I was told that in the middle of the night they didn’t know who to ask to lead bhajan, and I was told they turned to this little man that had been there the whole time. I’d say the majority of the devotees, they didn’t know who he was, and it was Srila Akincana Krishna das Babaji Maharaj. I was told that they asked him, “Prabhu, could you sing?” And he picked up the mridanga and he started singing. And because his singing was so pure and it was so full of love for his friend, Prabhupada, and for Radha and Krishna, everyone collapsed again. Then we went for the Mangala-arati, and the Mangala-arati at Krishna Balarama Mandir that morning was led by Anand Prabhu, Prabhupada’s godbrother. Then after the Mangala-arati, they took Prabhupada for his last parikrama.
Rajasekhar das: At first light after Mangala-arati, the devotees took Prabhupada in a palanquin. I remember Narayan Maharaj was leading the kirtan, Nadia was playing drum, and I had kartals. We went all the way down to Vrindavan and, of course, then I noticed all these hundreds of people that came from nowhere. I couldn’t figure that everyone had heard. Or if they had heard that Prabhupada left, I never saw Vrindavan in such a mood that everyone came out to pay homage so early in the morning. The rooftops were packed wherever we went. Then we took Prabhupada to all the Goswami temples of Vrindavan, Madan-Mohan, Radha-Damodar, Radha-Shyamasundar, and we ended up at Govindaji. And from Govindaji, we came back from there.
Shyamananda das: There’s two things that Srila Prabhupada gave me. One was personal association, and the other was some attachment for Vrindavan for whatever reason. Upendra got in touch with me when Prabhupada was in Vrindavan and was starting to become very sick and it became very clear he was going to leave soon, and I actually went to Vrindavan and spent time with him there. That was the first time I ever went to India. And courtesy of Tamal Krishna, I got to spend a lot of time with Srila Prabhupada personally, and I was able to do little things to help. That was a remarkable time. There was one moment in particular which stands out and has always remained with me, that normally Srila Prabhupada would give instruction in a very straightforward way by speaking to you. But by now he was very, very sick, and he actually had to be picked up and rolled over in bed and carried because he was getting ready to leave. And I’ll never forget this. We were on the roof of his apartment in Vrindavan, and my job was to burn…we had a pot of…I’m not quite sure what it was, but I was burning it to keep the mosquitoes away. There were peacocks cawing in the background and the smells of Vrindavan and the feeling of the air and the weight of warmth that the air in India has. I was sitting at Srila Prabhupada’s feet looking along his body at him, and I had a moment, I guess a cathartic moment. I didn’t speak outwardly, but I spoke very clearly in my heart and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, what am I doing here? Why am I here? Who are you?” And he sat up by himself, and he couldn’t do that at that point. And for 10 minutes or more, a long time, he just looked at me and he spoke without speaking, and I heard his voice inside my heart. And he told me exactly what I was doing, why I was there, who he was and what was happening. And when he had finished, he lay back down as if nothing had happened and again had to be moved and rolled over. That was the last instruction he gave me, and it was like nothing I ever saw with Srila Prabhupada in all the time I was with him. It was honestly mystical beyond measure. There was no way you could describe that as a normal interaction with anybody. It was profoundly intuitive, and he defied all material logic by sitting up and doing what he did. And he sat bolt upright, straight, and stared and didn’t stop staring while he spoke without speaking like that. And it was very clear, very basic, there was nothing odd or nothing mixed up with the madness of my mind in there. It was lucid. You are the eternal servant of Krishna, and Srila Prabhupada was nondifferent to Vrindavan. There was no point of distinction between Srila Prabhupada’s mood, his motive, and what Vrindavan was. They were the same thing. Everything made sense then. Seeing Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavan was the most amazing thing. I’ll spend many lifetimes coming to grips with that, I’m sure.
Yamuna dasi: There was one conversation that took place with Srila Prabhupada in the fall of 1969 en route to a lecture at Conway Hall from where we resided at John Lennon’s estate called Tittenhurst. I was present in the van that brought him there. Generally speaking, only the driver and Srila Prabhupada sat in the front of the van, and they were bucket seats. And then the back of the van was left empty, just the metal floor. So I was sitting with my back leaning against the back of his seat on the floor chanting japa. We had been en route some time. It was very dark by then, and Srila Prabhupada said just loud enough for me to hear, “When I leave this body, see that it is taken around Vrindavan on a palanquin on parikrama.” It was so short, it was just a sentence out of the dark in the night, and very stunning to me because I was absorbed in japa, something Srila Prabhupada had never mentioned and I had never thought of. So I rose to my knees and leaned over so my head was just even with his shoulder and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, why are you telling me this? Better you tell this to Tamal Krishna because he has more capacity to see that it is done than I do.” And Srila Prabhupada paused briefly and then said, “No, you can tell him,” and fell silent. And I too fell silent. So that this came to pass is very salient and so important because while I did mention that to Tamal Krishna sometime after the conversation, it wasn’t something that we spoke about in subsequent years. So that it happened through whatever arrangement of the devotees there means that Srila Prabhupada’s wish was fulfilled, and so many Brijbasis were able to pay their respect to Srila Prabhupada in this traditional way.
Bhagavat das: As we went from one place to the other, people were performing arati, offering flowers, offering prasadam, all of Vrindavan was displaying their love and affection for Srila Prabhupada. Then finally we brought him back, and then we prepared to put him in the samadhi. The thing that amazed me is that Srila Prabhupada had left the night before, and now this was almost noon of the day after. So this had been a significant amount of time. And, of course, for an ordinary man, within an hour or two rigor mortis sets in and the body gets stiff like a board. But Srila Prabhupada, his entire body remained not stiff at all, it was completely loose. Every joint, every part of his body was loose and completely flexible. There was no mottling, no settling of blood in the different areas of the body that happens to people, the ordinary persons who die. There was no odor. We had undressed him again and prepared him to bring him down into the samadhi, and his body was still fragrant. Every symptom was that of a greatly advanced maha-bhagavat, completely pure, completely Brahman, completely spiritualized, who had achieved mahasamadhi.
Vishalini dasi: He was carried on a chair, sat under the tamal tree for darshan of the Deities, and we could all tell it wouldn’t be long. This one day Prabhupada had this magnificent garland on, and for a moment I looked at him and I thought, “Oh, I wish I had that garland,” and immediately I felt so horrible. I felt, “Here is your spiritual master and look at him, and you’re wanting something from him?” And I started crying, I was so ashamed. I went to the corner of the courtyard, and I couldn’t stop crying. At that moment, Vrindavanesvari, my daughter who was 2, she went over to Prabhupada spontaneously, paid her obeisances. And as she was getting up, Prabhupada took the garland off and placed it on her. She ran over to me and immediately put it on me. I have that garland today. I’ve dried it, I’ve sewn cloth around it, and that garland is being used when we’re in the company of different individuals who are leaving their body. They wear that garland. So Prabhupada’s mercy is very far-reaching.
Rajasekhar das: The samadhi ceremony was going on. Narayan Maharaj was organizing. One or two of his assistants were there. Baradraj was leading that kirtan, I was having the kartals, Nitai Chand was playing the mridanga, and a few hundred devotees were chanting. Then, of course, after Prabhupada was placed there, salt was surrounded underneath and on all sides to form an antiseptic cover for the transcendental body of Prabhupada. Then soil was thrown in. I was also fortunate to throw some soil on top. It is said in the Cc during the samadhi ceremony of Haridas Thakur that anyone who throws soil into the samadhi of a pure devotee will be liberated, will go back to Godhead. So I was thinking, “Even here we are getting Prabhupada’s mercy.” Of course, there had been an abhiseka of Prabhupada just prior to his entering the samadhi. And then the abhiseka water came out, and I was fortunate to get about a liter of it, which I drank. I kept a small quantity in some small bottles. So I was able to throw soil into the samadhi and at the same time drink the caranamrita.
BV Padmanabha Swami: The hole which was dug for placing Prabhupada in samadhi, the devotees had stayed up all night excavating that hole. There was a little roped off area, and we were all pressed up against this rope watching. Of course, we didn’t know what was going on. But we watched and watched, and gradually Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental Sri Vigraha became covered. Then it really started hitting me that this is the last time that I’m going to see Srila Prabhupada with my eyes, and then I just broke out weeping and weeping. And that was the completion. They poured the earth on top of the samadhi. I remember going back to my room, sitting down in front of one of the favorite pictures I kept of Srila Prabhupada, and I did my own little Guru Puja for Srila Prabhupada. Then after that I collapsed and took rest and got up a couple hours later and there was a whole ceremony going on of different speakers coming and glorifying Srila Prabhupada, and then after that there was a huge feast. Then all the residents of Vrindavan came, and thousands of people were fed with prasadam in Prabhupada’s honor.
Partha das: I witnessed the transference of Srila Prabhupada from his manifest to his unmanifest pastimes, I witnessed Prabhupada’s final parikrama around Vrindavan, I witnessed Prabhupada’s internment in his samadhi in Vrindavan, and I also witnessed the installation of the Pushpa Samadhi in Mayapur. And to this day, you could tear my soul from my body but you could not separate me from the conviction that Srila Prabhupada is completely embodied in his books, and that he is fully present in his samadhis in Mayapur and Vrindavan, and that he is present wherever his devotees are sincerely trying to carry on his mission.
Lokanath Swami: Considering his last will of going around Govardhan, his followers, his disciples did take Prabhupada, the small brass murti of Srila Prabhupada, which was first taken to Radha Kunda and bathed with Radha Kunda water. Then there was a procession around Govardhan Hill. Hundreds and hundreds of devotees and friends and well-wishers, followers of Prabhupada, we went performing Govardhan Puja. Prabhupada was on the mind of all of us, so we were carrying Prabhupada on our minds and in our hearts. So how could Prabhupada not be there? He was very much there. Prabhupada, his mission of preaching, he wasn’t thinking of stopping at any time. He was just unstoppable. His desire to spread Krishna consciousness was so intense. He was dead set. If you talk of determination, he is the personification of great determination to spread Krishna consciousness, and he exemplified that by his last will of going around Govardhan. It wasn’t a drama for him. He wanted to go. He wanted to go on a bullock cart and travel or do some preaching or programs if possible. The night before he was appealed, “Please, don’t go, don’t go,” and the next day he comes up with this bus program. “Take me on the bus. Take me out of here. I want to be in the field, be with the public. Let me die on the battlefield preaching, battling with Maya.” So he was trying to make his followers understand his spirit, his determination to spread Krishna consciousness. And this is how he was preparing us or his followers, future generations, to go on until they reach every town and every village in the world. Prabhupada, he was so determined, he would not stop till Krishna consciousness movement reaches nagaradi-grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama. So I think Prabhupada will be accompanying the preacher of Krishna consciousness movement who would be visiting the very last village on this planet, bringing the Holy Name there. The will power that he had, strong, strong will, which is only giving us inspiration to carry on spreading this Krishna consciousness movement.
Vrindavan das: When Prabhupada first came back in 1977, he gave a real intense lecture about vani and vapuh, association through personal association or association through instruction. And I remember the intensity of that too because we also had our teachers. Despite the problems, they were pretty sincerely into this. Why else would they give up their lives? So whenever Prabhupada would give these heavy lectures, they used to go out of their way to make sure we got the point. So I remember when Prabhupada gave that intense lecture, “So many of you want to be around me physically. All right, but the truth is when you associate with me through my instructions, it’s much more effective and I’m much more pleased by it.” Of course, we want sangha with the sadhus and with the spiritual master, but he said the most important thing is to associate by carrying out the instructions, carrying on their mission. And I remember that too, and I knew what it meant. Then I’ve noticed even as an adult, a lot of projects I’ve done, the ones that were completely successful were when I’ve always had that attitude, that somehow I’m with Prabhupada.
BB Govinda Swami: When I first met him, I looked at him and I didn’t know what to say and I said, “Srila Akincana Krishna das Babaji Maharaj.” And then he saw that I had a tape player in my hands. And so without my having to say anything, he just closed his eyes and he started tapping his hands together and he sang his Mangala Caranam before singing Sri Krishna Chaitanya. And then he started singing Hare Krishna mantra, and it was like going into another world. He was chanting so beautifully, and it was like each syllable was drenched in bhava and prema. After about 20 minutes he stopped, and then he looked at me and he said, “I would like to tell you something.” I said, “What is that?” And he said, “I am an old man, and I’ve had a lot of experience in this world. From my experience, I can honestly tell you that there has never been a greater acharya than your spiritual master.” And when he said that, I became stunned because he was a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Then he looked up and he said, “There has never been an acharya in history who has performed miracles like your spiritual master.” And then he paused and he looked at me, he said, “Do you know why?” I was so stunned, I couldn’t say anything. And he said, “Because in history there was never a greater servant of Sri Krishna’s Holy Name than your spiritual master. Because your spiritual master had so much absolute understanding of Sri Krishna’s Holy Name and so much absolute faith in Sri Krishna’s Holy Name that he personally carried Sri Krishna’s Holy Name through the length and the breadth of the world. Therefore, he is the greatest acharya who has ever existed.”