I am very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for having brought me into your association. You are his sincere followers, and many of you have been serving him for decades, from when you read or heard about him or met him in person.
Once, on his guru maharaja’s disappearance day, Srila Prabhupada said, “On the absolute platform, there is no difference between the appearance and the disappearance of the spiritual master. Both are beautiful, just like the sunrise and the sunset.” So although we feel separation, within that separation our remembrance of Srila Prabhupada is heightened, and thus we experience the beauty of his presence—in separation.
To straightaway speak about Srila Prabhupada’s departure feels abrupt to me, because it is a painful topic, but remembering Srila Prabhupada’s words that the disappearance is also beautiful, I wanted to share with you a lesson I learned from his departure.
A few days before he was to leave us, Srila Prabhupada expressed a desire to travel by bullock cart to different holy places in India. His Holiness Lokanath Swami had been traveling by bullock cart to different places of pilgrimage, and Srila Prabhupada was very enlivened when Lokanath Swami reported to him in Vrindavan. And Prabhupada said that he too would like to go on pilgrimage on a bullock cart. He asked Lokanath Swami to arrange it, and Lokanath Swami was enthusiastic, having been encouraged by Prabhupada in such a direct way. He immediately went to organize the cart and make all the arrangements. Govardhana-puja was to take place in a couple of days, and Prabhupada said that he would begin his pilgrimage by travelling on a bullock cart to Govardhana Hill to celebrate Govardhana-puja with the Vraja-vasis.
At that time, Srila Prabhupada was bedridden and, one could say, emaciated. He was unable to eat, and he was able only to sip a little liquid. He was gaunt and weak, with almost no energy. He would just lie on his bed, and sometimes, with great difficulty, he would speak softly, often so faintly that only those very near him could hear his words.
There were many devotees in the room when Srila Prabhupada had his exchange with Lokanath Swami. And immediately after the discussion ended and devotees went outside, they began to express two strong, heartfelt opinions about what Srila Prabhupada should do—and, more than that, how we as disciples should relate to him and serve him.