10. The Dead Rise to a New Life
The devotion of the Deeghalkandi family was akin to the way Srivasa Pandit had surrendered at the feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
The devotees assemble in Srivasa Pandit's courtyard and get immersed in divine chanting and kirtan. One day Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, along with the devotees, was immersed in kirtan in the courtyard of Srivasa Pandit. Waves of divine love emanated from his body. Suddenly a maid came in and discreetly called Srivasa to follow her into the house. Srivasa went inside and saw that the condition of his sick son had worsened. As if he was lying in bed waiting to see his father for the last time. As soon as Srivasa went and sat beside him, he breathed his last. His mother let out a heart wrenching scream and fell down on the floor unconscious. Seeing the state of his wife and the cries of all the women assembled there, Srivasa calmed them and said, “Listen all of you. Please don’t make noise. Can’t you see Mahaprabhu immersed in such an ecstatic divine dance in the courtyard? Don’t dampen his spirit. I am not heartbroken at my son’s death, but if there is any obstruction in the sankirtan and Mahaprabhu’s joy, I cannot tolerate it. If I hear anyone crying, I will give up my body by drowning in Ganga.” How can the mother control her tears, her emotions seeing the dead body of her only dearest son lying in front of her? Impossible was made possible that day. Everyone contained their uncontrolled emotions inside, sat like statues of stone not letting a single drop of tear run out. Srivasa explained to his wife, “Our son is fortunate. He left his body in front of Mahaprabhu in the midst of sankitana. So, don’t cry.”
Saying these words, he went out, mingled with the other devotees, and raising both his hands high up in the air, he joined the sankirtana. The sankirtana is a night long affair. How long can the news be kept secret? Slowly the news spread from one person t the other. Suddenly Mahaprabhu stopped the kirtan and asked, “Srivasa, is everything okay? Did some mishap happen in your house today? I am unable to concentrate in the sankirtana. My mind is restless. I am in terrible pain and anxiety is taking over. Tell me what has happened?” Srivasa had no answer and stood there silently with his head down. One of the devotees told Mahaprabhu the passing away of Srivasa’s son. Mahaprabhu stood there stunned, “What are you saying? When did this happen?” The devotee replied, “Prabhu! It happened quite some time ago. But Srivasa Pandit didn’t want to disturb you and so has asked everyone to keep quiet.” Tears rolled down Mahaprabhu’s eyes. Unable to speak, he started weeping like a child. “Oh! How great is this devotee of mine! By that time Mahaprabhu had already decide to take up sanyas. So, he cried aloud, “How can I leave this devotee, who, drowned in my love took the devastating blow of his son’s death so lightly?” Such is the attraction of the Lord for his devotees.
Mahaprabhu asked the boy’s body to be brought out and to make arrangements for his last rites. A miracle happened right there. Mahaprabhu looked at the boy and asked tenderly, “Why are you leaving Srivasa’s home and going away?” Everyone was in shock when the boy replied, “O Lord! Who can go against your wish? I enjoyed my association with this body as long as I was destined to. Now the time is over. I cannot stay a moment longer. Free of my duties and responsibilities, I am going to the other world. Who is father and who is son? Everyone is attached to someone else to enjoy the fruits of his actions. I stayed in this home as long as I was destined to. Now I have to leave.” Then he became silent. His body became cold and rigid like before. The Lord wanted to remove the sorrow from the hearts of his devotees. So, he enacted this episode to pacify the crowd assembled there.
This Bandopadhyaya family had suffered the passing away of eleven of its members in the last two years. Only by the grace of Sri Sri Thakur, they were able to tide through such terrible phases unscathed with their hearts still full of love and surrendered at the lotus feet of their Gurudev. Once Sri Sri Thakur had declared that may be God is throwing them into fire so that absolve of all the impurities they come out as pure gold.
The loving interactions, the playful exchanges, the interplay of emotions that Sri Sri Thakur demonstrated with this family is not seen with anyone else. He has intimate bonding with many of his disciples and their families but this family was his own and he took on the responsibility as the head of this family.
One day when Thakur was called for breakfast, he said, “Today is my Ekadashi. I won’t eat anything nor drink a drop of water. I will observe Nirjala Ekadashi.” All the daughters in law of the family came together grumbling, “This is not done. If you were to observe Ekadashi fast today, you should have informed us earlier. We have prepared so much prasad. If you fast, then what will happen to all the food that has been cooked? You cannot carry on with Ekadashi today. If you fast, then no one in the family will touch a morsel of rice. Of course, we cannot advise you. Do whatever you feel good about.” This exchange went on and on for half an hour.
…to be continued
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty’s essay, “Deeghalkandi Parivar.”