On June 14, at the end of what was to be Śrīla Gurudeva’s final class in New Braja, he announced, “This is my last journey to America.”
Then, to the great dismay of the over eight hundred devotees gathered, Śrīla Gurudeva left the festival a day before its scheduled conclusion.
Śrīla Gurudeva held his final program in the US on June 19th, at the Rose Temple in Los Angeles. Hundreds of devotees packed into the temple, anxious to hear and for darśana of Gurudeva. Gurudeva appeared grave and majestic as he spoke. He was bathed in golden light streaming in from the stained glass church windows behind him, and garlanded by fragrant white flowers. When Gurudeva left that evening, all the devotees surrounded his car, blocking the whole street in their eagerness for one more merciful glance from their beloved master. Onlookers approached, also eager for a view of the great personality. As he was driven away, Gurudeva blessed the crowd with his beautiful smile and raised hands. The devotees then bowed down on the pavement with tear-filled eyes in the direction of Gurudeva’s departing car.
From July 2 to 7, Śrīla Gurudeva stayed in Marina di Massa, Italy, a west coast town between the Marble Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Devotees were present from over twenty-five countries, including Russia, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, USA, England, India, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada, Iran, Mexico, and various parts of Africa. Guru-tattva had been a regular theme that devotees asked questions about. In Italy during Śrīla Gurudeva’s morning walks, some of his sannyāsīs asked him about the qualification to be a guru: if there was any benefit to the conditioned souls if a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī gave initiation to them, because in many devotional societies this practice was going on. Śrīla Gurudeva replied that the result of such initiations would be nothing, and that what to speak of being kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs, most gurus around the world were not even on that platform.
From Italy, Śrīla Gurudeva returned to India for Guru-pūrṇimā. After this annual festival, despite the manifestation of his illness and the hesitation and request for him to stay in India by his close associates, Śrīla Gurudeva went to Russia as scheduled. On August 8, Śrīla Gurudeva arrived in Moscow, where he would stay until the 12th. On the first day of the 2010 Moscow Hari-kathā Festival, Śrīla Gurudeva began discussion on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He began with the opening of the First Canto, and by the last day he was up to the Tenth Canto. During his last class in Russia, on August 11, Śrīla Gurudeva discussed the pastime of Kṛṣṇa accepting prasādam from the wives of the brāhmaṇas in Mathurā.
When Śrīla Gurudeva returned to India, his health seriously declined and he went directly to a Delhi hospital. On the request of his doctors, Śrīla Gurudeva stayed in Delhi to regain his health. Therefore, for the first me in fifty-six years, he was not in Mathurā or Vṛndāvana for the celebrations of Jhulana-yātrā; his annual three-day conference honoring Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī on his disappearance day; Śrī Baladeva Pūrṇimā;
Śrī Kṛṣṇa-janmastami and Śrī Nandotsava. Words cannot describe how Srila Gurudeva lamented not being able to be there. In his tearful speech on Janmastami Srila Gurudeva said that he had not missed the celebrations for Janmastami and Nandotsava in Matura for over 50 years. He said that, although he was in Delhi by body, his heart and soul were in Matura with the devotees there.
While Śrīla Gurudeva stayed in the Śrī Ramaṇa Bihari Gauḍīya-maṭha and received treatment, local devotees and devotees arriving from all corners of the world would perform nāma-sankīrtana outside his bhajana-kuṭīra for many hours everyday. And to pray for Srila Gurudeva’s good health, many devotees performed regular parikramā, abhiṣeka with pancamṛta and worship of Śrī Girirāja. Besides this, Nṛsiṁha–yajñas, Sudarśana–yajñas, and other ceremonies were organized in India and abroad on a daily basis with the prayer for Śrīla Gurudeva’s full recovery.
The devotees were worried about Śrīla Gurudeva’s health and many wanted to remain in Delhi to be near him. However, once Kārtika started, Śrīla Gurudeva did not usually encourage this. On many mornings and evenings, Gurudeva would come to the screen door of his bhajana-kuṭīra, either to sit for a few minutes or to stop briefly as he walked, aided by his attendants. If he saw devotees waiting for his darśana in the courtyard, often he would ask them why they were there, and he would instruct them to go to Vṛndāvana to participate in Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā. “Your life will become successful by vising these pastime places,” he would say. “I am only unable to attend parikramā because of my ill health, but I order all of you to go and participate. Gradually, I am improving, and I will try to join the parikramā as soon as possible.”
One day, in the middle of Kārtika, Śrīla Gurudeva told his servants that he now desired to go to Govardhana. Upon hearing his request, they immediately made all arrangements to take him there. On the morning of his departure, the crowd of devotees in the Delhi temple was so large that it took half an hour for Śrīla Gurudeva to travel in his wheelchair from the elevator exit to the ambulance, forty meters away.
Well over a thousand devotees gathered for Śrīla Gurudeva’s darśana upon his arrival at Śrī Giridhārī Gauḍīya Maṭha. During the remainder of his stay in Govardhana, his health fluctuated from day to day and he remained in internal consciousness most of the time. Devotees were very eager to meet with Śrīla Gurudeva in his quarters, as he did not come out of his room. Because it would not be possible to receive so many people in Gurudeva’s quarters, a monitor was placed in the temple hall and during evening programs, devotees could see Śrīla Gurudeva from a camera in his room and Gurudeva could likewise see them on a monitor. Śrīla Gurudeva gave his merciful glance upon the devotees assembled in the temple hall, and encouraged them to do kīrtana with upraised arms. After two weeks of great concern over Śrīla Gurudeva’s condition, where it seemed he could depart any day, on the mornings of November 20 and 21, having miraculously recovered to some extent, Śrīla Gurudeva came out of his quarters and spoke to the assembled devotees. On the 20th he said, “I have brought you all here from many different parts of the world. You have all been hearing hari-kathā and doing parikramā of Vraja-maṇḍala for the past month. You are all extremely fortunate to be here. What more can I say? Tomorrow is pūrṇimā, and you will all go back to your countries. I am inviting you all to come again next year for Kārtika. Please also come to Navadvīpa Parikramā.”
From Govardhana, on the day of Navamī, after Kārtika, Śrīla Gurudeva traveled to Jagannātha Purī. There, on Wednesday, 29 December 2010, on the cusp of niśānta-līlā, at three a.m., the end of the night, on the auspicious kṛṣṇa-navamī-tithi of the pauṣa-(Nārāyaṇā) Māsa, the appearance day of oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktedānta Vāmāna Gosvāmī Mahārāja, in the Jayaśrī-Dāmodara Gauḍīya Maṭha, which is located at Śrī Cakra-tīrtha, the sacred appearance place of Śrī Jagannātha, Baladeva, and Subhadrā in Kṣetra-maṇḍala, Jagannātha Purī, he who is an inmate associate of nitya-līlā praviṣṭa aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja; he who is best among the one-pointed followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda, who fulfils the innermost desire of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the savior of the most fallen in this age of Kali; he who is the crown jewel of the rasika Vaiṣṇavas in present times; he who was acclaimed Yugācārya; oṁ viṣṇupāda paramahaṁsa svāmī Bhaktabāndhava Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, by his own sweet desire, entered Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Ramaṇa-Bihārījī’s eternal pastimes, thus submerging those servants who had taken shelter at his lotus feet in an ocean of intense separation from him.
When Śrīla Gurudeva first arrived in Navadvīpa, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja sent Śrī Bhaktivedānta Vāmāna Gosvāmī Mahārāja to the train station in the middle of the night to receive him and bring him to the maṭha. Deep in his heart, Śrī Gurudeva desired that through the medium of Śrīla Vāmāna Gosvāmī Mahārāja he would again meet his beloved Gurudeva in the eternal abode. Approving that desire, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja arranged for Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmāna Gosvāmī Mahārāja to again appear in this world at three a.m., on śrī kṛṣṇa-navami-tithi, 29 December 2010—his own appearance day—to bring Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja back to his eternal home. The next day, Śrīla Gurudeva was brought to Śrī Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha, in Koladvīpa, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, which is non-different from Girirāja-Govardhana. There, thousands of heartbroken bhaktas assembled from the world over and witnessed as their beloved Divine Master, an inmate associate of the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, was placed in Mahā-samādhi.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: firstname.lastname@example.org )