By Indradyumna Swami
My dear Braja Vallabhi, Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Though you have departed this world I pray that through the transcendental medium my words will be communicated to you wherever you are serving—be it in this world, or at the lotus feet of Radha Syamasundara in the spiritual world. I am convinced it is in the latter, for Srila Rupa Goswami writes in his Mathura-mahatmya, quoting Skanda Purana:
sarpa dastah pasu hatah
labda pamrtyavo ye ca
mathure mam loka gah
“Those in Vraja-maṇḍala who are bitten by a snake, killed by animals, killed by fire, water or any other unnatural cause certainly become residents of My very own spiritual planet.”
[ Skanda-purnam, Margasisa-mahatmya, chapter 17, verse 50 ]
My dear spiritual daughter, although I am your spiritual master, supposedly learned in sastra and fixed in devotional service, nothing could prepare me for your sudden and unexpected departure. This is not a weakness, rather it is the nature of love; the love of a guru for his disciple, and a disciple for her guru.
In a letter on September 28, 1966, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“At his first sight of me my spiritual master also saw me with such love. It was in my very first darsan of him that I learned how to love. It is his boundless mercy that he has engaged an unworthy person like me, in fulfilling some of his desires. It is his causeless mercy to engage me in preaching the message of Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha.”
In the same way, Ballabhi, it was from your love for me, demonstrated through your continuous selfless service, that my appreciation and love for you as my spiritual daughter, manifested. Because of your inherent talents, recognized by one and all, you were instrumental in the organization and running of all my major preaching programs for many years; from the Festival of India in Poland, to Krishna’s Village of Peace at Woodstock, throughout the grand festivals in Gujarat and Maharashtra and here in Vrindavan during Kartika. I can honestly say I would not have been successful without you. I was fully dependent on your service in helping me preach Krishna consciousness around the world. What will I do now that you are gone?
It was in this mood that Srila Prabhupada wrote to a disciple on January 22, 1976:
“You cannot survive without my mercy and I cannot survive without your mercy. It is reciprocal. This mutual dependence is based on love – Krishna consciousness.”
Indeed, I was always aware of your excellence in service. Whenever a difficult task came up, such as organizing the Sacred Sounds kirtan mela at New Govardhana, it was enough to simply say to you, “Ballabhi, please get it done.” Things won’t be so easy now that you’re gone—and not as relishable, either. It was your joyful smile, your enthusiasm, and your determination to please others that made performing devotional service such a pleasure in your association. My dear spiritual daughter, I cannot properly express how much I will miss you!
Once again, the wisdom of the poet George Eliot rings true: “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”
Dearest Ballabhi, some of my fondest memories will be of our time spent here in this holy abode of Sri Vrindavan dhama. For many years you assisted Rasika Siromani dasi and her husband, Govinda caran dasa, in organizing large Kartika parikramas. It was an overwhelming task to say the least, but nevertheless you always found time to sit and hear the lectures and relish the kirtans of the holy names. mJust the other night you said to a friend during a particularly enthusiastic bhajan, “I would be happy to leave my body in the midst of such beautiful singing of the holy names.”
And, in essence, that’s exactly what you did. On that fateful day you departed, you were on your way to the Holy Name retreat at Govardhan Hill. Devotees who were in the vehicle with you told me you were enthusiastically chanting japa all the way when, just minutes away from sacred Radha Kunda, the accident happened. You left your body immediately. Though it was a tragic demise, it enabled you to achieve your heart’s desire. Such is the all-merciful nature of Sri Vrindavan. Srila Rupa Goswami writes in Utkalika-vallari:
“O handsome, fragrant tamala desire tree blooming in the Vrindavan forest and embraced by the madhavi vine of the goddess ruling this forest! O tree, the shade of whose glory protects the world from a host of burning sufferings, what wonderful fruits do the people find at your feet?”
[ Srila Rupa Goswami, Utkalika-vallari, A Vine of Hopes, text 66 ]
You were born into a family of devotees, you lived a fully Krishna conscious life and you departed in the holy dhama of Sri Vrindavan chanting the holy names. Let me now describe in detail your journey from that point on. Most surely it corresponds with Srila Rupa Goswami’s description of entering into the eternal realm of Vrindavan in his famous poem, Uddhava-sandesa. Krishna is speaking to Uddhava:
“Oh my brother, the path you will follow to faraway Nadisvara Hill is said to be beautiful, straight and good. When you fall into the ocean of bliss in Gokula I will become very happy. When a friend becomes happy, good persons think themselves happy too. “
“First you should go to the place named Gokarna, where Lord Siva, who captains the ship that leads people out of the ocean of troubles stays. O wise one, nearby you should go to the place where the Yamuna meets the Sarasvati, a place that fulfills the living entities’ desires.”
“It is this place that I first entered Mathura. There I was kissed by waves of sidelong glances from a host of beautiful women who said, ’O slender friend, we have become most fortunate, for the graceful flutist whose music made the gopis’ garments slip now walks on the pathway of our eyes.’”
“From that place, flooded with bliss, please take the nearby path to Ambikavana, where, rescuing Nanda from a snake in Kaliya lake, and delivering a Vidyadhara, I gave a festival of happiness to the cowherd girls of Vraja.”
“O wise one, don’t take your chariot on the path that goes by the hilly place on the Yamuna’s bank where Kuvavalapida again and again attacked Me with his tusks. Saintly persons never take the paths where the demoniac walk.”
“Avoid the southern path. Go north to the king of holy places, a place beautiful with many blossoming sumanah flowers and graceful birds, the place where, by My mercy, Akura first saw the world of the gopas.”
“Even if you don’t wish to pass by the doors of the yajnika-brahmanas who because they slighted Me are not dear to you, you should still glance at the brahmanas’ wives, who are always singing my glories. If you do not wish to see them, your eyes will be cheated of something very valuable.”
“Then please quickly go to the place named Kotika, which is near Mathura city, and which is filled with a great circle of blossoming trees. When I walked through that place, a girl picking flowers uncovered part of her shoulder and smiled at Me.”
Dearest Vallabhi, Srila Rupa Goswami’s beautiful description of a pilgrim’s journey into Vrindavan continues in his poem, as will the Lord’s mercy upon you as He guides you further on this path of pure devotion to His lotus feet. As such your love for Vrindavan and the Divine Couple will blossom day by day. Such things are attainable for those who follow our beloved Srila Prabhupada, as he indicated to one of my godsisters early in our movement:
“As your devotional service becomes mature you shall see Krishna more and more, and more and more you shall realize the qualities of the holy land of Vrindavan.”
[ Letter to Hladini dasi, January 28, 1973 ]
Dear Vallabhi, I once asked my godbrother, Tamal Krishna Goswami, what is the most important characteristic of a disciple. He immediately replied, “Guru-nistha, faith in the spiritual master.” You embodied that faith, and it was your most endearing quality. I then asked him, “What is the greatest challenge in becoming an initiating spiritual master?” He paused for a moment and then replied softly: “Sometimes you are obliged to accept disciples who are more advanced than yourself.”
I am so fortunate to have you, and so many others like you, as my disciples. I will never forget you. Your final words to me, in a prophetic message texted only minutes before you left this world, will always remain with me. We had been discussing how we’d soon be serving in different countries. Little did we know it would be different worlds.
“I will be waiting to serve you Srila Gurudeva.”
Please be patient Ballabhi. I’ll be Home soon enough. And as Srila Prabhupada said, “One day we’ll have our ISKCON in the spiritual world.”
Your ever well-wisher,