The Final Sickness Pastime
In this way, sequentially days were passing by. On August 26th 2017, three days prior to Rādhāṣṭamī, Śrīla Mahārāja manifested his sickness pastime. Whenever the topic of taking him to the hospital arose, Śrīla Mahārāja would say, “Rādhāṣṭamī is coming up, hence it would be good to do whatever is possible here in consultation with the doctor. If the need arises, we shall go to the hospital after Rādhāṣṭamī. On Rādhāṣṭamī, there is a massive event being organised; even last year I was a part of the arrangement made for Rādhāṣṭamī. So this time as well, it is my immense desire to participate, however not everything takes place as per our will because —‘āpane icchāya jiva koti vanchā, kṛṣṇa icchā haya yadi tābe phal dhare— in other words, a living entity can have unlimited desires by his own will, however those desires only get fulfilled when Kṛṣṇa desires it.”
One day a devotee asked Śrīla Mahārāja, “Mahārāja, what are you doing?” Śrīla Mahārāja simply replied, “Sickness pastime.” Another day, one servant asked Śrīla Mahārāja, “What is the news?” Śrīla Mahārāja replied, “Now the only news is that I may have to leave anytime.” Despite knowing the essence of his heart and words, the servant posed as being oblivious and said, “Mahārāja jī, I will also go along with you.” Śrīla Mahārāja then responded, “No! No! You still need to perform a lot of service for the guru-varga.” The servant said, “I will serve the guru-varga while being with you.” Śrīla Mahārāja then said, “No. It won’t happen that way.” The servant asked, “What kind of a place will you be going to [where I cannot come]?” Śrīla Mahārāja then said, “Where upon going no one has to return – yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama – in other words, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is saying in the Bhagavad-gītā, ‘My supreme abode is such, those who reach there, do not have to return [to this material world].’”
On August 29, 2017, the day of Rādhāṣṭamī, around 10am, Śrīla Mahārāja was taken to the hospital. As per the consultation of his disciple Dr. Ratnesh Shukla and another doctor at the hospital, Śrīla Mahārāja was admitted. Śrīla Mahārāja said many times expressing his sadness, “As a fruit of my own karma, I had to come to the hospital on the day of Rādhāṣṭamī, but what can be done? Even generally we have to imbibe only subtle conceptions and not gross conceptions. No matter wherever we may be, we should befittingly honor the tithi.” The next morning, when a brahmacārī from the maṭha reached the hospital to see Śrīla Mahārāja, Śrīla Mahārāja began to eagerly inquire about all the details about the Rādhāṣṭamī celebration: “How was the festival organized? Who all did kathā and kīrtana? How many people had turned up? Hopefully there was no shortage of prasāda? Etc.” When that brahmacārī alerted Śrīla Mahārāja saying, “Mahārāja jī, the hospital doctor has advised you from speaking so much”. Śrīla Mahārāja did not stop speaking and continued to speak about the Rādhāṣṭamī festival up until that brahmacārī left.
After some time Śrīla Mahārāja began speaking to another servant, “Khal karoti duṣkaram… Due to the wicked (khal) Rāvaṇa’s misdeed of abducting Sītā, Rāvaṇa committed an offence at the lotus feet of Śrī Rāmacandra, yet the ocean had to endure suffering by becoming the recipient of Śrī Rāmacandra’s wrath in the form of Setubandha, and being attached to the boundary of Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā. In the same way, it is appropriate for me to have come to the hospital to suffer, not being able to participate in a festival such as Rādhāṣṭamī is due to my destiny. However due to having come in contact with me, your not being able to attend the festival is like punishing the innocent. Therefore, I am feeling very shameful.” Hearing this, the servant placed his head on Śrīla Mahārāja’s lotus feet and beseeched him to be merciful by not uttering such words.
On the day after Rādhāṣṭamī, Śrīla Mahārāja kept asking questions to the many devotees who visited, “Is it not the tithi of Ekādaśī today?” When the devotees replied, “No”, at that time, Śrīla Mahārāja repeatedly said in a grave mood, “Certainly inform me regarding Ekādaśī.” When the devotees repeatedly asked, “Mahārāja jī, are you supposed to do something special on that day?” Śrīla Mahārāja replied, “Yes, this Ekādaśī is very important to me. Because my āvirbhāva was on Śayana Ekādaśī, at the beginning of cāturmāsya and at the end of cāturmāsya, on Utthānā Ekādaśī is the āvirbhāva of my Gurupādapadma.” Then the servant asked, “So what is the connection between this and that Ekādaśī?” Śrīla Mahārāja said, “In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, these Ekādaśīs have been mentioned as important – Śayana, Utthānā, Pārśva, Bhaimī; among them this Parśvā-parivartana Ekādaśī is also considered important.” The servant asked, “Will you be doing something special on that day?” Śrīla Mahārāja replied saying “Yes”. The servant said, “What?” Śrīla Mahārāja then said, “Will you understand if I were to tell you everything? Therefore, please do not ask anything further, please certainly inform me one night prior to Ekādaśī about the tithi.” The servant said, “This time the fasting is on Mahādvādaśī.” Śrīla Mahārāja said, “Alright, just inform me about that.” What was the deep mystery hidden behind Śrīla Mahārāja’s words? Who knows what he had resolved within his mind?
In the last 15-20 years of his life, Śrīla Mahārāja was admitted to the hospital on numerous occasions due to some cause or the other. Only upon completing his treatment at the hospital, would he return to the maṭha, with an exception when he was brought from Agartala to Kolkata, where he insisted on being taken back to the maṭha from the hospital. Now, on daśamī Śrīla Mahārāja repeatedly requested, “I do not wish to stay at the hospital, take me to the maṭha, I do not wish to die here, I wish to leave my life-air amongst the devotees.”
When the servants said, “Mahārāja jī it is better that we leave after one to two days when you fully recover, because if after going to the maṭha, we have to come back to the hospital, then even that is not good.” However, despite the arguments Śrīla Mahārāja said, “No, whatever happens, it will be good to go the maṭha. Whatever treatment is possible there, I will do. I do not wish to stay here, I must leave here.” For the next hour, Śrīla Mahārāja repeated this message despite the assurances of his servant, “It is ok Mahārāja jī, we will talk to the doctor tomorrow morning, and do as he advises.” Śrīla Mahārāja persisted until finally the servant said, “Mahārāja jī, please calm down, we are taking your words seriously. But it is only possible to consult the doctor tomorrow; we will also make the doctor interact with you.” Hearing this, Śrīla Mahārāja appeared to be somewhat pacified.
While Śrīla Mahārāja was at the hospital, with doctor’s permission one servant would constantly remain with him in the ICU, even throughout the night. One night, Śrīla Mahārāja, began speaking in his internal consciousness, “I cannot delay anymore! I will have to leave. I first have to perform abhiṣeka of Kṛṣṇa and then of Rādhārāṇī.” At another point, “Look, everyone is so enthusiastically calling me for service!” And so on.
The next morning, on Mahādvādaśī, upon the doctor’s arrival, Śrīla Mahārāja joined his palms and said, “Doctor Saheb! Please give me discharge. I do not wish to stay here. I wish to die in the maṭha itself. Whatever you prescribe to be followed at the maṭha, we will all try to follow.” Upon hearing the grave words of Śrīla Mahārāja, the doctor said, “Please give me some time. I will notify you through your servant.” After sometime he called for the servant and said, “Your Gurudeva is not in a such a state that we will grant permission to go to the maṭha, because upon discharge, the need may arise to put him on a ventilator at any time. So you all consider carefully beforehand whether you are agreeable to this or not.” When the servant asked the doctor for his personal opinion, he submitted, “In his condition, there will be no benefit of even putting him on a ventilator, therefore my personal opinion is that as per his desire, he should be taken to the maṭha. Even then, the decision will be yours and not mine.”
As the servant appeared before Śrīla Mahārāja to deliver the news, before he could say anything, Śrīla Mahārāja said, “Look, no matter what the doctor has to say, giving precedence to my words, you should be taking me to the maṭha.” The servant responded, “Mahārāja jī, we will be afflicted by seeing you in this state because the necessary apparatus for your service is not available in the maṭha!” Śrīla Mahārāja responded, “By residing here, I will be afflicted and by taking me to the maṭha, you will be afflicted. Now you consider whether you wish to see me in pain or accept misery yourself. Now I shall not speak anything on this matter.” Saying this, Śrīla Mahārāja began to chant the mahā-mantra.
The ‘Remembrance in Separation’ series, dedicated to Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, was composed by Śrīpād Bhakivedānta Siddhānti Mahārāja. It was first published in Sri Sri Bhagavata Patrika in Hindi in the year 2018. The series unfolded over three volumes (Year 14, Volume 9-10, 10-11, 11-12).
Now, we are presenting the English translation of this in the form of a series of articles released in www.vcvani.com.
Since it covers a brief sketch of Śrīla Mahārāja’s life and precepts from childhood to his final pastimes, this series will be unfolded from now until his tirobhava tithi.