3:30 A.M. on Saturday the phone rang here in Boise. When my father, Ananta-rupa Dasa, picked up the phone, my aunt was on the line, calling from Delhi.
"Get here as soon as possible," she said. "Father is very sick. He's in the hospital. He's on a ventilator and in critical condition."
My father prepared for the worst. He packed several spiritual items to help my grandfather meet an auspicious death: tapes of Srila Prabhupada chanting, dust from Lord Krsna's holy land of Vrndavana, sacred water from 1,008 holy places that had been collected by devotees for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial, and a picture of our Radha-Krsna Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Bankebihari, who were so dear to my grandfather, Dr. Giridhari Lal Gupta.
My father left alone on the next flight to New Delhi. By the time he reached Jaipur, Rajasthan, on Monday afternoon, my grandfather's condition was slightly improved, and he was communicating through writing. My father spent half the night chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra by his side, while my grandfather fingered his own beads.
Beginning early Tuesday morning, my grandfather's condition quickly worsened. A sudden detachment overcame him. He stopped responding to questions.
Realizing the end was near, my grandmother, Revati Devi Dasi (formerly Ramavati Gupta), put on a tape of Srila Prabhupada chanting. My father sprinkled Vrndavana dust on Grandfather's body. My uncle, Dr. Sharad Gupta, placed a leaf from the holy Tulasi tree on Grandfather's forehead and sacred water in his mouth. Everyone gathered around the bed and chanted loudly with Srila Prabhupada's tape, while my grandfather gripped his beads.
The doctor came in and asked, "Why are you creating this noise?" The nurses also came in to make a few last checks and laughed among themselves about the "primitive" practices.
After the doctors and nurses had left, the chanting intensified and went on for a long time. My father held the picture of Sri Sri Radha-Bankebihari before his father's face. Grandfather opened his eyes for the last time and gazed at their Lordships' forms.
At 12:20 P.M., my grandfather mouthed the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and left his mortal coil.
That evening my father spoke on the Bhagavad-gita to all the relatives and friends who had assembled. He selected verse five of Chapter Eight: "And whoever at the end of life quits the body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt." My father explained the special significance of Lord Krsna's abode, as distinguished from the heavenly planets or the planets of the forefathers.
Two weeks before his death, my grandfather had stopped eating. He had also distributed chanting beads to close friends and implored them to chant the holy name. And he had written in his diary, "I have said good-bye to all my friends and relatives. Now I say good-bye to my life."
By the mercy of the pure devotee Srila Prabhupada and the instructions of the scriptures, he departed from his body in a most auspicious way. That is the power of Krsna consciousness.
That night, my grandmother, searching for some solace and meaning, found it in a copy of Back to Godhead magazine she'd picked up from her shelf. It was the May/June issue of 1995. The page she opened to had a short description of the life of Jayananda Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's who had passed away a few months before Srila Prabhupada's own passing. The description included part of a letter Srila Prabhupada had written to Jayananda Prabhu on hearing of his passing: "As you were hearing Krsna kirtana [chanting], I am sure that you were directly promoted to Krsna-loka [Krsna's abode]. Krsna has done a great favor to you not to continue your diseased body and has given you a suitable place for your service."
My grandfather's passing was distressful for those who knew him, but it showed the efficacy and value of Vedic culture and Srila Prabhupada's teachings. It also showed how much that heritage, in modern India, is being lost.
Ravi Gupta, age fifteen, lives at the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho, USA. The center is run by his parents. Ravi, who was schooled at home, is a third-year student at Boise State University.