In 1965, when Srila Prabhupada left the auspicious land of Vrindavan to come to the west, no one thought he would be so successful; even his own God-family did not think so, and showed him little or no support. Twelve years down the line, he had traveled around the globe fourteen times and established one-hundred and eight centers worldwide. His determination was strong.
Srila Prabhupada once remarked, “I am an old man. I may die at any moment. But please, you all carry on this sankirtana movement. You have to become humble and tolerant. As Lord Caitanya says, be as humble as a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. You must have enthusiasm and patience to push on this Krishna conscious philosophy.”
Srila Prabhupada wanted nothing more from us than to work together cooperatively and to spread the sankirtan movement worldwide. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu foretold that His holy names will be spread in every town and village of the world. In the preface of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada wrote that even if one person becomes a devotee, he will consider his humble attempt to be a success. No one can even begin to fathom the selflessness and determination of Srila Prabhupada. To honour his Divine Grace, a beautiful pushpa samadhi, or monument, was built for him in Sridham Mayapur. On his disappearance day, hundreds of devotees gather there to pay tribute to the Founder Acharya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
In Srila Prabhupada’s pushpa samadhi, the celebrations of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day begins with a Bhagavatam class given by his Divine Grace, followed by a beautiful, ecstatic kirtan. Then, starting at 09:30am, glorifications begin. On this sacred disappearance day of his Divine Grace, not only does the community of both international and local devotees come together, but also many of the neighbouring Gaudiya Maths join together to honour one of the greatest personalities of all time.
Around 11:30am, there is a maha abhishek of Srila Prabhupada’s murti, and all his disciples and senior Vaishnavas from the Gaudiya Maths bathe him, while an ecstatic kirtan is performed. Once the abhishek is completed and Srila Prabhupada is dressed in new cloth, he is offered over a thousand preparations made by his loving pujaris and other community members, and this is followed by pushpanjali. Once pushpanjali is completed, a maha arati is performed. During this time, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and some grand-disciples offer his Divine grace fragrant garlands of flowers. Once arati is over, the devotees are invited to honour a sumptuous feast.
In the evening, the devotees gather and have kirtan until the tirobhava muhurta, or the auspicious time Srila Prabhupada left this world. At 07:25pm, the song “sva parsada bhagavad viraha janita vilapa” (je anilo prema dhana), written by Srila Narottama Das Thakura, is sung. The atmosphere is intense, as a wave of deep and heartfelt prayers fill the Samadhi mandir. As the devotees look up at the effulgent murti of Srila Prabhupada, they sing with all their hearts and shed fervent tears of simultaneous separation and happiness. It is indeed a festival of mixed emotions. After the muhurta is observed, a maha arati is performed for Srila Prabhupada whilst the Guruvashtakam prayer is sung. The devotees are supplied with ghee lamps to offer to Srila Prabhupada.
This is a day which is spent in full absorption of his Divine Grace, and if we are fortunate enough, we will experience that same absorption every day, living and breathing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and instructions in our day-to-day lives. Srila Prabhupada and this sankirtana movement are the only way for us to develop pure love for Krishna, (and thus get back home, back to Godhead) in this day and age.