Day 13, Wednesday, 09/04/08
Gurudev said that He’d have fruit for breakfast. Gurudev requested that I watch the sannyasa initiation section of the Ratha Yatra DVD. A devotee from our congregation, named Karuna, kindly offered the use of his car to drive Gurudev around for the next few week. Robin Prabhu came to fetch Gurudev for His luncheon appointment and katha at his home. On the way, Gurudev spoke about chanting japa. Those of us who know Gurudev, are by now quite used to Him asking about our chanting. Its His loving concern for our eternal spiritual well-being…He mentioned to Robin something about the extra four counters that make up the usual twenty. He said that these four are for Nirjal Ekadasi, when we could chant 64 rounds, moving one of those four extra beads every time we finished a set of 64! Robin had a very neat sikha, which Gurudev glorified. Gurudev then spoke about His own sikha, saying that He had not cut it in 22 years! After speaking to the family for a while, Gurudev took prasadam. Although the preparations were not numerous, they were tastefully prepared, and Gurudev acknowledged this, “What nice prasadam! Sattvik and full of bhakti.” There was the a class from Bhagavad Gita 4.42. Gurudev said something amazing and thought-provoking at this point. When speaking with family about their experience (or lack) of reading Bhagavad Gita, He said that it was quite a deep book to read, and that “even Srimad Bhagavatam is easier to understand.” The lights went out just as Gurudev finished reading the purport. The rest of the class was given under the artificial light from battery-operated lanterns because the area was affected by “load-shedding”. After class, Gurudev spoke to the family for a while and then we were driven back to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath by Ishkaar, who had just arrived from work. Whilst driving Gurudev, Ishkaar, who is a qualified medical doctor, spoke to Him about prostate care. I was happy to hear that Gurudev was managing the condition successfully by taking some medication. When we got back to the temple, Ishkaar carefully explained how and when to take the new medication. I then made Gurudev’s bed and retired for the day.
Day 14, Thursday, 10/04/08
Gurudev took a breakfast of fruit. He also requested some cheesy biscuits that Cheron had specially made for Him. Today would prove to be a very busy one…
Our driver was Nitai, who had the privilege of driving Karuna’s new up-market Mercedes. The first stop was at the dental surgery, where Gurudev was treated by Krsna Caran Prabhu, a warm-hearted and friendly devotee indeed. Then we were off to a Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS) program at the university. The attendance to these programs is generally low, but quite a few interested students arrived, and many even stayed through the entire 118 minute lecture. Gurudev was very sincere in His presentation, and I’m sure that is what grabbed their attention.
On the way back from the program, Gurudev asked for His phone, and made a call to Russia. He then proceeded to have a 4 minute conversation entirely in Russian. It was quite fascinating to hear!
That evening we went to Niyananda Pran Prabhu’s asram for lunch. Rakesh Prabhu drove Gurudev. There was first Guru-puja for Gurudev, and then He was invited to sit down for prasadam. Gurudev had requested for Italian, and our very expert Godbrother had gone “all out”! Indeed, Gurudev was full of nothing but praise for his cooking. After we had taken prasadam, we left for the nama hatta program held at one of the congregation’s homes. It was very well-attended, with many new people also joining in. The program went on until 21h00, with Gurudev giving much council and advice to many seekers. Gurudev took rest well after 22h00.
Day 15, Friday, 11/04/08
Gurudev was chanting when I went down to His room at 07h10 with the bhoga for puja.
I offered my dandavats and proceeded to clean the room. The morning’s Srimad Bhagavatam class was given by Gurudev, and was the most relishable topic of the glories of Lord Balaram. (You will find a transcript of this class that I have submitted for Gurudev’s website.) Gurudev took the breakfast cooked for the devotees, along with some hot milk to have His medication with. There was some darshans this morning. First was with Govinda Caran, who was heading off to our Pretoria Centre to take charge there, and then a meeting with Prana Priya.
When we were at last alone together, Gurudev told me that He would like to leave for Verulam nama hatta at 16h30. This was fine with me because I had many rounds to chant.
Nitai drove us there, but unfortunately our directions were a bit unclear and we got a little lost. Gopal’s asram was our stop for lunch, and Gurudev took prasadam there in the small but cosy home. Whilst Ashish, Nitai and I took prasadam, Gopal and family spoke to Gurudev. Gopal is experiencing some frustration with his job. He said to Gurudev, “I can’t stand my work anymore.” Gurudev replied, “You are advancing in Krsna Consciousness.” We all laughed.
I suggested that we do a harinam before the program, and Gurudev was all for the idea. The Hall where the pogram was to be held was walking distance, so we had a short harinam from Gopal’s house to the Hall. When we got there, the place was packed! I noted that almost all the people were non-devotees. This was very encouraging.
Gurudev performed arati, whilst I lead kirtan. Then He spoke on Bhagavad Gita 9.10. It was well-received, and there were several questions at the end. In His typical thorough method, Gurudev answered each and every one, leaving no shadow of a doubt. Then, after class, there was kirtan by Gurudev, during which we showed all the guests just how the devotees can dance! Gurudev then distributed fruit from the altar to a seemingly endless queue of people. We then drove back to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir. It was well after 22h00 when we retired.
Day 15, Saturday, 12/04/08
When I came into the temple-room, Gurudev had just finished chanting His Gayatri mantra. Gurudev informed me of the day’s plans. The morning’s Srimad Bhagavatam class was given by Gurudev. He spoke about the nature of independent sense gratification, and the consequent suffering.
After class and breakfast, I packed Gurudev’s bags for His trip to Ladysmith, and from there Johannesburg.
Nitai Prabhu drove Gurudev to visit Radha Kishori, our Godsister in Umhlanga, who was recently initiated at Ratha Yatra but had been very ill of late. Gurudev was first offered some refreshments by Raj, her husband, as he explained the nature of the illness. Gurudev was then invited into Mataji’s room, where we all chanted a kirtan for about 10 minutes. Although she was very heavily sedated, Radha Kishori tried her best to lift her head to look at her beloved spiritual master. Each time she tried, her head flopped back onto the pillow. Gurudev told her that it was okay, exihibiting once more His fathomless compassion. We were then off to Maran Prabhu’s wedding at New Jaganath Puri. During His address, Gurudev said that He was very happy to be present at the occasion, and spoke from the 9th canto about Lord Ramacandra and Sita Devi. Gurudev was then ushered into the office to take His lunch. We were in a great haste because Gurudev was due to attend the Ladysmith Ratha Yatra, and the organizers there had agreed to delay the start of the procession for a few hours so that Gurudev could be involved. Deva Deva and Karunamayi had prepared the lunch, and to facilitate our timeous departure, all those traveling with Gurudev took lunch at the same time as Him. I always feel very uncomfortable honouring prasadam whilst Gurudev is also doing so. I’d rather serve Him.Gurudev, almost reading my mind, turned to us and asked, “How’s the prasad, team?” Through mouthfuls, we unanimously replied that it was most delicious.
Almost immediately after we had taken prasadam we were on our way to Ladysmith. A three-hour drive! As we pulled up near the chariot, a cheer resounded from the devotees present and they all offered their obeisances to Gurudev. HH Bhakti Nrsinga Swami was leading kirtan, and humbly handed over the microphone to Gurudev. The kirtan just built and built until we were all dancing with gay abandon. Our carefree mood was dampened by a huge downpour. A storm showered the last 200 meters of the procession with merciful drops of cooling rain. Unfortunately, I had not anticipated this sudden climatic change and had not carried an umbrella. Gurudev had to make amends by using His top-piece as a kind of shawl. Some kind devotees in the procession sacrificed their own dryness by lending Gurudev their umbrella. The rest of us I’m afraid were soaked to the bone…
When we arrived at the marquee pitched beside the Ladysmith Preaching Center, Gurudev asked for a pair of dry socks and His other shoes. I ventured back out into the deluge to fetch these items, keeping them dry by handing them to somebody who had a jacket on. Gurudev took off His soaking wet socks and put on the fresh pair, then slipped on His dry shoes. There were a few cultural items beforeGurudev was due on stage. He had indicated that He would take prasadam immediately thereafter, so I accompanied Jayati Radhika to her asram to fetch the preps. We were accompanied by two other devotees, to maintain the etiquette. Once there, which was the house where Gurudev would be staying, I borrowed some dry cloth from Natwar Prabhu. In the meantime, the mataji had assembled all the prasadam, and we packed the car. When I returned to the program, I was horrified to see that Gurudev had already started His address. I hastened to get the recording started, and poured Him some water. There was a group of loud children sitting close to the recorder, and try as I much as I could, I couldn’t get them to be quiet. The rascals!
Once the short address was over, Gurudev was ushered into the Preaching Centre, where He was served His prasadam. Bhakti Nrsinga Swami joined Him a few minutes later. Then there were a few cultural items and then Gurudev lead the final kirtan. We were then off to our hosts’ asram, where I prepared things for Gurudev to take rest. Early the next morning, He would be driven to Johannesburg by Namacarya Prabhu, our very senior and surrendered Godbrother. As I was staying with Namacarya in another house across the road, I greeted Gurudev and retired for the night.
Day 16, Sunday, 13/04/08
Gurudev was already up and chanting when I arrived at Natwar Prabhu’s house. He was chanting on some new japa beads brought by Namacarya, since there be an initiation in Gauteng later that evening. As He chanted, the morning rays of dawn created a wonderful halo around Him. It was a precious moment… Gurudev had also completed Giriraj’s puja, so I excused myself and went up to His room to pack His bags. This done, I returned to sit at His lotus feet and chant japa. The devotees wanted to offer Gurudev a breakfast before His early departure time of 7h30. This they managed in fine style. Gurudev especially appreciated the muffins, although I must say on the whole He took fairly little. A few minute later, Namacarya had something to eat. We then packed Gurudev’s bags and assembled in the driveway to wish Him well on the four-hour drive to Gauteng. It was a pleasure being with Him, and the imminent separation weighed heavily on my heart…
Day 17, Saturday, 19/04/08
Hans Prabhu had fetched me from Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir, and we had arrived well in time to fetch Gurudev from the airport. We then traveled for another hour to get to Pietermaritzburg, where there was a grand program being held to celebrate the birthdays of Dashen’s children, Shreya and Sayug. It was a very well-attended function, with many family members of Dashen present, which made a wonderful preaching opportunity. At the beginning of the program, there was a wonderful sketch presented by the children, who enacted the life and times of Gurudev. It was thoroughly relished by all, including Gurudev Himself. Still, He remaied as sober as ever, saying as we all stood up for Guru puja, “Now let us worship Srila Prabhupada.” I was very impressed on this guru-nistha displayed by Gurudev…
Gurudev then gave a beautiful class, which unfortunately I could not record, since I had left my recorder at the temple in my haste. Afterwards, Gurudev spent at least an hour granting darshans to many well-wishers. We then were taken to Dashen’s asram, where Gurudev would be staying overnight. Some of Dashen’s relatives, however, eager to have more of Gurudev’s association arrived a few minutes later. There was never a trace of selfishness in His behaviour, as Gurudev sacrificed His time to speak to this family. Indeed, such selfless service is no an uncommon sight. The conversation went on for a further 30 minutes, whilst Vraja Renu and Shainam re-heated some snacks for Gurudev and I chanted. After Gurudev honoured a snack, He retired for the night.
Day 18, Sunday, 20/04/08
Gurudev joined us in the lounge to chant His japa. He was waiting for us to arrange the paraphernalia for Giriraj’s puja. Shainam kindly helped by arranging a tray with the necessary items. Gurudev decided to perform the puja with the family in their temple-room. Giriraj’s offering would be done to Him after He took His place on the altar.
The family was keen to have some sort of morning program, and although Gurudev was extremely hard-pressed for time, He accommodated their desire. After the abridged morning program, we packed up Giriraj’s paraphernalia with the rest of the luggage and loaded it into the car. We were then off to the airport, to drop Gurudev off for His flight to Cape Town. During the hour-long drive, Gurudev chanted without cessation.
After He had checked in, Gurudev requested that we find a quiet spot to sit. The family had packed a very practical breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and of course some Woolworths ginger beer! Whilst I served and Gurudev honoured prasadam, the family sat around Him, drinking up these last precious moments of association. When it was almost time to board, Gurudev gathered up His things, wished everybody well and went through to the waiting area, where He would chant His japa.