Toward the end of February 1977, His Holiness Tamala Krsna Goswami, the author of this diary, put aside all other engagements to become the secretary to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Even under normal conditions, this was an extremely taxing service, requiring as it did unflagging perseverance and meticulous attention to details. And now its demands were to increase many times over. For the events of the next nine months proved to be Srila Prabhupada's final activities on this earth. Over the course of these last months, we see both Prabhupada and his followers coping with a steadily failing body and confronting the growing threat of separation by death, a prospect that became fulfilled on November 14, 1977.
Tamala Krsna Goswami had always served Prabhupada with resourcefulness, intelligence, and determination, and Prabhupada had often turned to him in difficult and demanding times. In the eventful days chronicled here we see just how difficult and demanding they could get. Under the circumstances, it is indeed amazing Tamala Krsna Goswami was able to maintain this record so well.
Tamala Krsna Goswami's own mentality is also revealed in the fact that the diarist never turns in these- pages to reflect upon himself. We have become accustomed to diarists who dilate obsessively upon their own physical or mental states. But here the diarist's attention is undeviatingly turned upon Srila Prabhupada.
Indeed, the only times the diarist himself becomes the object of consideration is when he dispassionately records his own mistakes and reprimands from Prabhupada, For example:
Unfortunately, when the time came for me to read, I noticed that the key to Prabhupada's desk, which he had entrusted to me, was missing. The importance of this key was known to those who have served Srila Prabhupada. Formerly, he never let the key out of his possession. Since he became so ill, however, he entrusted it to my care. Now, the key to all of his personal properties had become lost; and I was completely bereft of the desire to live. Finally, I went before His Divine Grace and reported the loss to him. Prabhupada said, "Call the G.B.C. and decide what is to be done." I managed, however, to open the drawer with another key and relocate all the items. I begged Srila Prabhupada to allow me another chance to hold the key, and he mercifully consented. I immediately put the key on my sacred thread so it would not be lost again.
The narration's unwavering focus upon Srila Prabhupada bears powerful witness to the devotion of the diarist. The reader gradually gains an appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's judgment in choosing to have this particular person so close to him in his final days, in choosing this person to be the one in whom he would entrust his care.
Those of us who love Srila Prabhupada have to be grateful to Tamala Krsna Goswami, not only for the care he gave Prabhupada but also for the care he took to record these pastimes of a pure devotee at the end of life, in all their wonder and their terror.
This is all the more powerfully conveyed by the fact that this diary is presented here virtually as it was, as a "raw document," an historical primary source. Tamala Krsna Goswami's original intention had been to use the diary as the basis for a more polished and extended work. Instead-for reasons I will mention later-he is now publishing the diary virtually as he set it on the page, with only minimal editing necessary for the convenience of the reader. Whatever may have been lost in the way of style or form, however, is compensated for by immediacy of impact. The cumulative effect in revealing Srila Prabhupada and his relationships is powerful. That such an immense outcome is attained by means of the unadorned, utilitarian prose of a busy and usually tired writer must be attributed to the unusual qualities of the subject himself.
In these pages, Srila Prabhupada is present before us in all his particularity and individuality. For example, we encounter the constant but varied expressions of Prabhupada's profound devotional ecstasies woven into the quotidian fabric with his idiosyncratic, ever- shifting experiments-you can't forget his years as a pharmacist-with a bewildering cornucopia of self-prescribed traditional cures and nostrums, various medical modalities, and an endless train of healers.
Over and above that.we see Prabhupada's deep care and concern for the well-being of his International Society for Krishna Consciousness and his worries for its safety after his departure. We see his love for his disciples: how he cried when word of the demise of Jayananda dasa reached him; how enraged, like a protecting father, he became when the devotees were attacked in Mayapur: how enlivened he became from their association:
Prabhupada moved upstairs in the evening and lay on his bed under the open verandah roof. When he called for "Ta mala and the others," we came up, not knowing what change to expect now. Prabhupada said, "Sit down. I want simply to see you all. It gives me vital force." Prabhupada looked upon us very mercifully and lovingly, as sundara-arati began. The air was filled with frankincense to keep away the mosquitoes. We all began to massage different parts of Prabhupada's body. Srutakirti and Satsvarupa each massaged a leg, and I massaged Prabhupada's head. Guru-krpa fanned the incense. Prabhupada lay peacefully with his eyes closed, attended by all of us. He looked more exhausted than usual. Prabhupada said, "You all Vaisnavas be merciful to me."
We see, how, in saying good-bye, he variously gave his blessings:
Kuladri, Brahmananda Swami, and I were sitting with Srila Prabhupada in the morning, when he said, "Those who are personally serving me, you, Upendra, can each be given ten thousand rupees from my personal account. It is not a reward. It is my blessings. My Guru Maharaja did this. Whoever was serving personally, he gave ten thousand rupees. I came into this world empty, and I w\ll go out empty-handed."
"And this Krsna consciousness movement will go on. This is the genuine thing. Param vijayate sri-Krsna-sankirtanam. Take it seriously, not as a trifle. You are all young men. You will live. Take it seriously. You American boys, you have got intelligence. You have to take it. I was thinking that if my body finished, everything finished. Now I am hopeful. It will be finished." Prabhupada said this with great certainty. "Who cares for Gandhi's non-violence and Vivekananda's hospital? Nonsense!"
We all praised Prabhupada and said that this movement was all his mercy. Prabhupada replied, "Yes, it is all Krsna's mercy. I have tried. What mercy I have got! Poor Indians! Started without any substantial support-forty rupees." Prabhupada began crying. "Loitering in the street on Fifth Avenue. After my lunch, I used to go on Fifth Avenue to see the Christian festivals. You are helping. You go on helping."
As we approach closer to Srila Prabhupada's final days, we can see how Prabhupada's own mortal condition became engaged in Krsna service. We see day by day how the imminent prospect of separation increased Prabhupada's own expression of tender and forgiving feelings for his disciples, and how in turn the disciples’ love for Prabhupada slo grew. Indeed, in the anguish and grief of a long leave taking, we can se the spiritual master and the disciples become , paradoxically, united closer and closer, forging a bond of mutual care and service careless of mere death.
I would warn the devotees who open this account that there is far more content to it than we can absorb in a single reading. Indeed, this is a narration that continues to enact itself within our minds after we have closed the covers, that draw us to open them again and to undergo once more the events set so vividly before us. It is, after, all the association of Srila prabhupada that tamala Krsna Goswami has given us here.
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