Day 4, Monday, 07/07/08
Gurudev joined Rohininandan and I in the lounge at about 6am. We watched as Gurudev began to worship Giriraj. Except for the ringing of the tiny bell, there was complete silence in the house. It was a precious moment…
After puja, Rohininandan and I cleared up the paraphernalia. Gurudev then settled into His chair and began to chant in full earnest. I asked Gurudev if He’d like a hot drink and He replied that He would take some chicory if it was available. Unfortunately, it was not. Rohininandan suggested some Horlicks and Gurudev was agreeable, saying that He knew that Srila Prabhupada was known to have taken Horlicks also. There wasn’t enough sugar added for Gurudev’s liking though, and I had to return to the kitchen to add another spoonful. Gurudev said that it was very nice, but declined my offer of more. We continued chanting japa until 08h30, at which time Rohininandan served Gurudev His breakfast. I had excused myself to pack Gurudev’s bags so we were ready to leave. Breakfast consisted of fruit and some “extras” that Krsna Prema put together. As I served Gurudev the last item on the menu, He told me that we would leave immediately after I’d taken prasadam.
Rohininandan drove Gurudev back to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir. Even as He was walking out of the door, Krsna Prema followed appealing for Gurudev to return to her house to stay after any or all of His weekday programs which were going to be held in outlying areas that were quite close to her house. Such is the love of a disciple…
Once we had arrived at the temple, there was some banking to do, so I attended to that without delay. When I got back from the bank, Mukunda Prabhu, had arrived with Gurudev’s lunch. Considering that he is my senior Godbrother, I decided to let him serve Gurudev so that I could watch and learn this refined art. Gurudev ate well, which brought me great pleasure. Whilst eating, He came across an especially spicy prep that triggered off a sweet memory. Gurudev recalled how, when He was very ill with bronchitis in the 1990’s, Mukunda and Lalita had cooked some very spicy prasadam for Him. “It helped, actually,” Gurudev recalled. Mukunda Prabhu remembered how Gurudev was restricted to His bed, and did all His work from there.
Later that afternoon, Bhaktin Narushni came to chant japa with Gurudev. I joined them to maintain the etiquette. The session lasted for an hour and a half and was very nice.
Many people came to meet with Gurudev and He gave His darshan very liberally.
As the last visitor left, which was after 20h00, I asked Gurudev if I could set up His bed. He consented. As I set up Gurudev’s bed, I pondered to myself, “This was meant to be Your ‘day off’, yet it seems that it was the busiest thus far.” The thought saddened me. Gurudev is so selfless, He never has time for Himself, because He gives His all to everybody and anybody who needs it…
Day 5, Tuesday, 08/07/08
Gurudev came into the temple-room during the chanting of Guruvastakam by Saci Kumar Prabhu. This South African-born Godbrother of ours is now based in Vrndavana, and has a beautiful voice, that everybody appreciated very much. Gurudev stayed in the temple-room for the japa-period, and we left for Dr. Dylan Naidoo at 07h00 with Asha.
Dr Dylan was as bubbly as ever, saying, “Hare Krsna, Swami! You’re looking well-fed. I don’t think You’re on Your diet anymore.” Gurudev conceded that He had been off the strict diet for a few weeks now. With a dramatic bow, the doctor lead Gurudev into the consultation room, and indicated to me with a friendly nod that I could also come in. As Gurudev sat down, Dr. Dylan took a deep breath and said that he had just been meditating on a “quote of the day”, which went something like “There are no accidents in this world. We knew well our path before we entered into the world of matter. ” I immediately saw a connection with the Krsna Conscious perspective of the eternality of the soul. Gurudev smiled and said, “Yes. That’s true. We are part of a bigger plan.”
Dr Dylan also pointed out that he was accessible via e-mail, and that this was his preferred means of setting appointments. He said that if Gurudev was abroad, and experiencing some changes in His condition, He could e-mail and set up an emergency appointment. Dr Dylan was always trying his best to improve his level of care for his patients, and Gurudev appreciated this.
After this initial exchange, Gurudev presented Dr Dylan with a raw silk kurta, which he had requested on a previous visit. Although, we were having a doubt about the fit, Dr Dylan accepted the gift most graciously. He then examined Gurudev, and although there were no serious problems, he told Gurudev to return that afternoon for further treatment.
Asha had been attending to her family, and had also kindly bought Gurudev some fruit. She agreed to drive Gurudev to Dr Dylan later that afternoon, upon my suggestion.
As promised, Asha took Gurudev back to the doctor in the afternoon. The treatment also included some tests, which we would only know the results of later in the week. When we got back to the temple, Gurudev spent some time on His computer, before we left to Robin’s home for a house progam. I had been very eager to start a DVD ministry of Gurudev’s classes, and today would be the inauguration of this project. Gurudev kindly agreed to lend me His camera and some tape. He also taught me how to work the camera. It was very exciting to learn from the maestro Himself! Robin himself came to fetch Gurudev at around 16h30. Gurudev asked about how Robin’s family were doing in their Krsna Consciousness. As we arrived at the home of Robin, I received some disturbing news about Radhika Sundari from Damodara Carana. I took the initiative of arranging that Gurudev could speak to them on the phone, knowing that in these types of situations hearing His voice is such a consolation. Robin and I left the car so Gurudev could talk privately, and whilst I unpacked the car all the while I was thinking of how Gurudev had comforted me when my father had passed away.
The family of Robin welcomed Gurudev with flower petals strewn on His path and some kirtan. They requested that they bathe Gurudev’s lotus feet, and He graciously consented. I sang the Guru-vandana whilst this was going on. I must have got carried away with my own singing, because at one point I saw Gurudev looking at me out of the corner of His eye. I know that look, and I knew that He was displeased. I hastily concluded the chanting, and Gurudev said the prema-dvani.
We then lead Gurudev to the dining room, where Anantadev and I served Him prasadam. Bhaktin Yavika had cooked everything, and Gurudev enjoyed every prep very much, praising her cooking at regular intervals. Out of her natural humility, Yavika said that her mother had taught her everything and had helped her to cook. The family explained that Anantadev had taught them how to cook, and had guided them in Krsna Consciousness. Gurudev said, “That is our system. Parampara.”
When the family continued to glorify Anantadev, he tried to deflect it, but Gurudev added, “Yes. He is a good devotee. We need more like him, to help guide others.”
When Gurudev had taken to His full satisfaction, He adjourned to the lounge where He granted darshan to the family members. After we had taken prasadam, I suggested to Gurudev that I start some bhajans outside because some of Robin’s family had arrived. I started chanting for a while and then had to set up the camera, so I handed over to Bhakta Rakesh. I must say, he really surprised us all by singing in such a sweet voice! Gurudev arrived and took His seat on the asana. Then Gurudev gave class on BG 18.56-58. He said, “People have desires, and Krsna fulfill this.”
After class, there was kirtan by Bhakta Nrsinga, while Gurudev performed arati. Gurudev then took over the kirtan and took it to another level! Then Gurudev spent some time with the various family members before Robin drove us back to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath. After making Gurudev’s bed, I retired for the night. It was about 22h00.
Day 6, Wednesday, 09/07/08
Gurudev came into the temple-room during the chanting of the Nrsingadev prayers. Gurudev was meant to give Srimad Bhagavatam class this morning, so I was curious as to when He would be doing His puja. “Immediately after class,” Gurudev answered. He also indicated that He would stick to His fruit breakfast. I got so caught up in my japa in the nectar-sweet association of Gurudev, that I completely forgot to bring the book to Him until 06h50. Gurudev’s class was about Vasudev performing some ritualistic ceremonies at Kuruksetra, and He used it to explain how a devotee has to perform his duties, even though seemingly beyond that level. He also spoke about initiation, stressing that first initiation into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is more important.
After Gurudev had performed the arati to Giriraj, I went to fetch the fruit offering, which Bhaktin Nivashni had kindly cut up. Gurudev especially liked the Clementines, a sort of miniature orange, which Asha had bought the day before.
After breakfast granted darshan to Mayapur Candra and his wife. In the meantime, I tried repeatedly to get a confirmation from the doctor’s rooms whether they had received Gurudev’s e-mail. He needed to know the outcome of the tests, because He would have to alter His travel plans if necessary. Eventually, I got an appointment for Friday afternoon.
That afternoon, Svarupa Damodara Prabhu drove Gurudev to Avi’s home or lunch prasadam. Mayapur Candra Prabhu and I also went along. Karun Prabhu had been kind enough to again allow Gurudev the use of his luxury Mercedes-Benz. As we drove out of the driveway, we met Ramanujacarya Prabhu, Gurudev’s Godbrother. Gurudev jokingly and teasingly asked, “Do you like the car?” When Svarupa told him the price-tag of R800 000, he was taken aback, but he voiced his appreciation.
As we drove, Gurudev asked Svarupa Damodara Prabhu about the latest happenings in ISKCON KwaZulu-Natal. Svarupa told Him about the upcoming major renovations to the altar, and other big projects planned for Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath as well as on nama-hatta level.
Avi and his family came out to greet Gurudev, and ushered Him into the exquisitely furnished home, that had every possible “mod-con” you can imagine! Whilst prasadam was being made hot, Gurudev chatted to Avi. We also learned that a prominent member of our congregation, Naren Maharaj, had been hospitalized for heart surgery. Svarupa said that I should call to find out if Gurudev could visit him. As it happened, he had been already discharged and was re-cooperating at his home. We arranged a visit at his home by Gurudev on Sunday, on the way to the New Jaganath Puri Mandir, where Gurudev would deliver the Sunday class. During the wait, I noticed that Srida, Avi’s daughter, hadn’t taken her eyes off her father for hardly a few seconds. I recalled that Gurudev had said in a class once, how our Godbrother, Krsna Balaram, showered so much affection on his young son, and how when he had to leave for work the child became so traumatized by the imminent separation. Gurudev’s response was very instructive. He talked about the “eternal hankering” of the child, for a feeling of safety, love and belonging, which is only available with Krsna.
Gurudev said, “It’s like a panic situation. That’s why the child panics. He’s not just ‘being a child.’ Feeling dependant on the mother or father, but it is the pain of separation from Krsna. But we try to put the parent in the place of Krsna, to give us that which we have got from Krsna. And, of course, they can’t give it much. Just a little something they can give. So really the fundamental thing which the child is crying out for… is Krsna’s care and that safety under Krsna’s lotus feet.”
I asked, “Is that what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said that we should cry like a child for it’s mother when we chant Hare Krsna?”
Gurudev said, “Yeah. Yes, We’re very lonely…in this foreign place, with all these foreign things and uncomfortable situations and all these people…”
I chipped in, “Very stressful.”
Gurudev continued, “Too stressful. And we try to put in some substitute, but it’s only a stop-gap measure and we feel its okay. But it’s not okay.”
“Thereafter after a while the children outgrow their parents. It’s not a big deal, because they find some shelter in other relationships and situations. Still they’re not satisfied, at all. And particularly, you see when some bad situation arises…like Naren. You see he’s a wealthy man, with all the facilities, but then he blows a fuse…”
Rohininandan and I served, as Gurudev took prasadam without Svarupa Damodara. The prasadam was first class, and Gurudev ate well. Then, at the end of His meal, as He was eating His cheesecake dessert, He said to Svarupa, “Try some. It’s formidable.”
The family then sat with Gurudev and talked. Gurudev spoke about His planned Parikrama of Vrndavana during Karttik this year. Avi wanted to serve Gurudev by advertising the trip and getting more people to join us.
When we got back to the temple, Narushni came to Gurudev’s room and we chanted japa. During this time, Gurudev took out a mini blood-pressure tester from His drawer and checked His BP. When Narushni heard what the reading was, she exclaimed, “Perfect!”
Gurudev said, “I don’t feel perfect.”
Narushni, “Long day?”
Gurudev, “Long month, long year, long life.”
Narushni, “You look tired. Don’t You take some rest during the day?”
Gurudev, “No. If I do then I can’t rest at night.”
As I heard the entire exchange, I was touched. Narushni inquired with the genuine love of a daughter for her father, and Gurudev replied with equal affection.
Looking at His Govardhan sila that was on a little throne on the altar, Gurudev said, “How does Giriraj look? Blissful, isn’t He?”
We agreed that He indeed looked very serene.
Gurudev continued, “He’s in His royal dress – King of the mountains.” Gurudev had placed Giriraj’s little turban on, and He looked very regal indeed…
There was to be an evening program with Avi’s family and Gurudev to honour Srida’s anna-prasan, or grain-giving ceremony. Initially, she regurgitated every drop of maha sweetrice that Gurudev fed her, but later she ate several mouthfuls, much to the joy of all of us who had gathered around to witness the fun.
Gurudev then gave a class from the 7th canto, explaining how Prahlad had instructed that spiritual education should begin at an early stage in life. The audience, who were mainly non-devotees, appreciated the whole program very much. When we returned o Gurudev’s room, He asked about the recording, saying that because I was using only one camera, the outcome would be a “talking head” video. I
Gurudev returned to His room after granting some darshans to the family, and retired by about 21h30.
Caitanya Carana dasa