His Holiness Mahavisnu Goswami

This article originally appeared in ISKCON News, the news agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and was made available to BTG by special arrangement. For more news about ISKCON, please visit news.iskcon.com.

His Holiness Mahavisnu Goswami passed away at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, on January 25. He was ninety-one years old and ISKCON’s oldest sannyasi. He had suffered from ill health for the past several years and was admitted to the hospital after a lung infection was discovered in late December.

Back then, after suffering from fever and intense asthmatic attacks, he had already begun preparing for the end by leaving for Nashik, a holy city in Maharashtra where he was raised and in which Lord Rama enacted many of His pastimes. However, after some peaceful days there, during which his fever abated and his breathing improved, Mahavisnu Goswami suddenly began to experience sharp, convulsive pains in both legs. His disciples consulted with Bhaktivedanta Hospital doctors and returned him to the Mumbai hospital early on the morning of January 17.

Unafraid to Die

Remarkably, Mahavisnu Goswami seemed completely undisturbed by his imminent passing.

“I have purchased the ticket and am on the platform waiting for the train,” he said. “When it comes, I will simply board. I am ready. We all must be ready when that train comes.”

“Those who are afraid to die, they die,” he added. “Those who are unafraid to die, they never die they live through the platform of devotional service.”

Famous for conducting Bhagavata Saptahas, during which he lectured on the Srimad-Bhagavatam for six nonstop hours each day for seven days, His Holiness was known for his deep love of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Disciples say that in his last days, despite being rendered dazed and drowsy by prescribed painkillers, his level of spiritual consciousness continued to be astounding.

“Every day, we would perform the mangala-arati ceremony and recite Srimad-Bhagavatam at Guru Maharaja’s bedside,” says disciple and personal secretary Devakinandana Dasa. “Sometimes he would be deep asleep, yet when we came to a particular verse, he’d suddenly open his eyes, smile, and remark, ‘Oh, this is a nice verse, Devaki,’ and repeat it aloud, before dropping off to sleep again as if nothing had happened. Often while he slept we would see his tongue moving rhythmically as if he was chanting, and when he awoke in extreme pain, his first words were always ‘Hare Krishna’ or ‘Rama Rama.’”

This absorption in Krishna consciousness remained until Mahavisnu Goswami’s very last moments.

“Many devotees were present chanting kirtana,” says close friend Kavicandra Swami. “His eyes became clear as he looked around at everyone. He uttered the holy name and then left. It was the perfect end to a glorious life.”

Mahavisnu Goswami’s body was transported to his beloved Nasik, where a samadhi (mausoleum) will be built for him.

While the disciples Mahavisnu Goswami has left behind are undoubtedly aggrieved by their guru’s passing, he had been carefully preparing them for this moment for some time and, of course, they take comfort in the knowledge that he is now with his Lord.

A Vaisnava from Birth

Devotees across the globe will remember Mahavisnu Goswami as a dedicated and powerful spiritual teacher who completed twelve world tours after accepting sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1991 at the age of 71.

He was born into a family who had been Vaisnavas for eight generations, and was highly educated, with M.A. degrees in English and Sanskrit and a fluency in those languages as well as Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu.

In recent years he established a beautiful ISKCON temple in Dwarka and a community in Rajkot, Gujarat, where a grand new temple is currently being built.

Despite his advanced age, frail health, and hectic preaching tours, Mahavisnu Goswami was always humble and accessible to everyone he even insisted on washing his own clothes and cooking his own meals during his last years. Kind, loving, and supportive, he was a spiritual father figure for many devotees around the world.

“We were fortunate to have such a soul among us, and I pray that I can follow in his footsteps,” says Kavicandra Swami.

Explaining the appropriate sentiments to be expressed when a great devotee passes away, he quotes Gaudiya Vaisnava guru Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati upon the departure of his father and spiritual guide Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura: “Today is one of great happiness and not the slightest grief. Today our master has reentered the eternal pastimes of the Lord. Now it is our duty to remember his eternal position, name, qualities, form, and pastimes. Henceforth we will follow in his footsteps with even greater concentration.” – Madhava Smullen, ISKCON News