Chapter 129: Upendra Prabhu, Prabhupāda's Dear Personal Servant
Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 129
Upendra Prabhu, Prabhupāda's Dear Personal Servant
Our Friend, Upendra Prabhu
When Upendra needed it the most, Śrīla Prabhupāda took care of him. He had a glorious passage surrounded by devotees chanting the holy name and the holy names written in tilak all over his body. Radha Kunda Jal was placed in his mouth and he was surrounded by prasadam garlands. Śrīla Prabhupāda saw that his servant passed in the best possible way.
Śrutakīrti takes much solace from the description of Upendra's glorious passage. It is all Śrīla Prabhupāda's mercy. Many of Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal servants are noticing how Śrīla Prabhupāda continues to take care of us all.
Upendra served Śrīla Prabhupāda in a first-class manner. He was so sentimental! He was extremely attached to Śrīla Prabhupāda and loved devotional service, yet his senses were strong and pulled him. Nonetheless, his guilt was so intense. He could hardly bear his own restlessness. His Divine Grace has brought him near.
Śrīla Prabhupāda showed us how to live and how to die. He asked forgiveness from all of his godbrothers, sister and family members before he departed for Goloka Vrindavan. We all know there was no forgiveness needed, but Śrīla Prabhupāda set a flawless example for all of us to follow.
Chitralekha, Upendra's former wife, and their children were able to communicate with him during his last days. The devotees read their letters aloud to him. His son, Somiya Prabhu, wrote an unsolicited letter of forgiveness freeing Upendra to do Śrīla Prabhupāda's seva. Thank you, Somiya Prabhu. You have set a wonderful example for all Vaiṣṇavas to follow!
Upendra wanted so much to be close to devotees and serve in a mellow way. During the last days of Śrīla Prabhupāda's visual presence, Śrīla Prabhupāda told Upendra he could just read and chant in Vrindavan. Management insisted this was not enough and he should serve in this way or that. His heart broke. He could hardly function, so he left. Still, his heart remained full of spiritual longing.
About a year ago, Upendra described his weak physical state and discussed his terminal condition with Śrutakīrti. At this time, Śrutakīrti offered Upendra his apartment in Vrindavan, saying it would be a suitable place to pass his final days. Upendra accepted the offer. It is our understanding that Upendra made it to Australia in an emergency condition. Still, Śrutakīrti wonders if part of the reason Upendra did not go directly to Vrindavan was due to his past painful experience.
Upendra is forcing us to contemplate the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas and the definition of pure devotional service. Brahmānanda noted the auspicious setting that Upendra was provided by the Australian devotees saying, "He was with the Australian devotees, who loved him and took care of him at the temple. So, that was also Vrindavan!"
We talked to Upendra Prabhu on the phone this summer, just when he got back from visiting the Australian temple. He expressed how much he loved it there because the devotees unconditionally appreciated him. He felt so encouraged by their affection. Brahmānanda mentioned that they even collected the funds for his ticket. By their uplifting association, Upendra was spiritually enlivened.
After being separated for a short time from their loving association, he felt drained and depressed. We talked to him in late August, and the Australian devotees had invited him back to help with an alternative therapy for his disease. With great hope and renewed happiness, Upendra planned to return to the Australian yatra.
We all loved Upendra. Satyadeva and Mahā Guna Prabhus offered to take care of him when they became aware of his condition. Both of them are well qualified, being health care professionals. So many of us wanted to help. Shaktimati and TuryaDāsa Prabhus brought a silk garland from Māyāpur's Lord Nrsringhadeva Deity especially for Upendra. Śrutakīrti brought him first-class Tulasī japa beads from Vrindavan. Everyone wanted to do something to take care of Upendra.
Why not? Upendra took such nice care of our beloved Śrīla Prabhupāda while His Divine Grace walked amongst us here in the material prison house. We all owe Upendra so much for the personal service he rendered to Śrīla Prabhupāda! How can we feel anything but a debt of gratitude toward Upendra Prabhu?
This brings to mind the question, "Who is fallen?" Upendra Prabhu's feelings of guilt and shame ostracized him from the local Berkeley temple. He felt dismissed, an outcast. Haven't we all been cast out of the spiritual world? Isn't humility a qualification for pure devotional service? Aren't we all fallen? I know I am. It's just a question of degree. I chant 16 rounds so offensively, it's amazing Kṛṣṇa tolerates me. I am spiritually illiterate. I parrot words, not really conscious of their meaning. Still I go through the motions and proudly consider myself elevated. This is my immediate disqualification. This is fallen.
How can we serve our spiritual master? Shall I remain arrogantly disqualified, keeping a safe distance from fallen devotees instead of blissfully welcoming them? The Australian devotees have taught us a wonderful lesson regarding unconditional love. I applaud them. Certainly they have pleased Śrīla Prabhupāda! This is genuine service!
Śrīla Prabhupāda is mercifully calling all of his personal associates back to him, one by one. We are all unable to perfectly follow our beloved Śrīla Prabhupāda. Still, he engages us. Such is the mercy of Sri Guru and
Remembering Upendra Prabhu with great fondness,
Your Servants, Śrutakīrti Dāsa and Kusa devi dāsī