Mahahari Das Prabhu Leaves His Body
Posted December 12, 2012
On December 4, 2012 at 12:23 a.m. our dear godbrother and longtime friend Mahahari das left his body after a one-and-a-half-year bout with blood cancer. It is always sad when a loved one leaves our company, and this too is the case with Mahahari prabhu. However, the passing of this particular person was no ordinary death, as he surrendered to the process of Krishna consciousness and began his journey on the path back to home, back to Godhead.
Mahahari prabhu had the good fortune of having been a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an aspiring devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, his passing is glorious and his future very bright. As Lord Sri Krishna Himself assures all of us: "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." (Bg 2.40) In his purport to this verse Srila Prabhupada goes on to say: "Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Krishna consciousness carries the person again to Krishna consciousness, even after the loss of the body. At least one is sure to have a chance in the next life of being born again as a human being, either in the family of a great cultured brāhmaṇa or in a rich aristocratic family that will give one a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Krishna consciousness".
By the Lord's mercy, Mahahari das had been given ample warning of his impending death and was able to prepare himself accordingly. He surrounded himself with the pure sound vibration of his Spiritual Master, Srila Prabhupada's kirtans, which were being played continually at his bedside for all his remaining days.
In the last conversation I had with Mahahari prabhu he was well aware his condition had taken a dramatic turn for the worse, so he asked that I do him a favor. Sometime back I had promised I would send some of his all-time favorite maha burfi prasadam, but I never managed to actually send him any. This time, however, he was insistent that I promise this next box of prasadam must include burfi. He suggested that a 100-percent assurance wasn't good enough and said I must now give him a 1,000-percent guarantee that the maha burfi would be sent. By the will of the Lord, his wish was fulfilled that very next day. As fate would have it, the temple had a guest cook who prepared the most amazing burfi, the best burfi I have ever had, and Mahahari prabhu got this wish filled, perhaps even more than he bargained for, with an entire box of this extraordinary maha burfi prasadam.
I think at this point it's important to note that at one point in Mahahari's devotional service, he was in charge of the New Hastinapura kitchen, and personally oversaw all the opulent preparations being offered to Their Lordships. It was from this temple where he served for many years that this maha burfi was sent.
Krishna prasadam is what ultimately attracted Mahahari prabhu towards Krishna consciousness in the first place, and so it is quite befitting that this Krishna prasadam was one of his last requests. When he was in college, unbeknownst to him, one day some Hare Krishna devotees came to his campus and set out cups of prasadam for students to take. He was in a hurry, rushing off to his next class, but managed to grab a few cups. He loved it so much and said it was like nothing he had ever eaten before in his entire life. When he went back for more, he was disappointed to see they had already left without a trace.
In the summer of 1976, the same year Mahahari graduated, an old college friend called and invited him to go with her to the Sunday Love Feast at the New York City Hare Krishna Temple. He was delighted and astonished to see they served that same food with that same very special taste which he had eaten and loved so much that fateful campus day. Now he knew without a doubt that these must have been the same people who came to his college and it was this Hare Krishna prasadam with its incredibly special taste he just couldn't forget about. Now here he was at last, again face to face with this sumptuous prasadam, but this time it was an entire Sunday feast, not just a few tiny cups.
Ironically, just the day before his initial visit to the Hare Krishna Temple, Mahahari had come to realize that he had developed a drug problem, and determined he was now unable to stop on his own. In desperation, he called out to the Lord to please show him that He, the Lord, was indeed real, and prove it by helping him quit this addictive behavior. Now, a day later, he was at the Hare Krishna Temple listening to the four regulative principles and why devotees follow them. He took this as the direct answer to his prayers and a sign from God that He does indeed exist. He knew he would be able to give up his drugs, and he already was addicted to the prasadam, so he decided to give this Krishna Consciousness a chance. He asked if he could stay with the devotees and moved into the Hare Krishna Temple that very same day. Besides, Mahahari prabhu had a voracious appetite, so why not just move in and live with the devotees where they happily filled you up to your neck with this most delicious Krsna prasadam?
Mahahari prabhu's services were many. He worked building the Ratha Yatra carts when he was a new bhakta in New York. He also went on street Harinamas and did book distribution there as well, where he distributed Back to Godhead magazines to many, even including the famous John and Yoko.
I first met Mahahari in 1977 when he came to live at New Hastinapure Temple in Potomac, Maryland. For years we would go out on book distribution together near the White House and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. He was an enormous comfort to be around, and I always felt safe and protected just by his presence out there with all of us. Once, a new devotee who had previously been an Army soldier came out with us to distribute books for his first time. This new devotee happened to be wearing his old Army jacket that day when he approached three Marines. These guys were off duty touring the museums, just a few blocks away from where they were stationed at the Marine Corps barracks. They happened to take offence at his being a Hare Krishna and at the same time wearing his old Army coat. One of the Marines started to punch and push him around. I was there as well, so I yelled out to Mahahari for help. When Mahahari, who fit his name perfectly, being 6'8"(203 cm) tall and weighing in at 250 pounds (115 kg), saw what was going on, he immediately dropped his book bag and ran faster than I ever could have imagined. When he finally made contact, he hit this guy from behind with such force and speed that the Marine actually flew in the air over a row of hedges, and landed down an embankment where he lay, with the wind knocked totally out of him. Gasping for air, this guy didn't even know what had hit him. The other two Marines went to his rescue as Mahahari stood in defiance saying: "Okay, who's next?"
As they dragged away with their fallen buddy, I figured they were going to come back with others to get revenge, but to my surprise — and relief, I must add — they never did, nor did they even once bother any of us ever again. I think they respected that he stood up to them and they were defeated by our big gun, Mahahari prabhu. Another great advantage was to have him with you on Harinam Sankirtan. You never had to worry about rascals attacking the party as the Great Mahahari was there to fearlessly take on any demon at any time, and he on several occasions did.
Not only did Mahahari love to eat prasadam, he loved to cook and distribute it as well. Mahahari hated to see prasadam going to waste and was determined it was going to be distributed. Many times I would see him personally take the leftover feast prasadam downtown Washington DC and bring plates to homeless people or to the shelters, long before ISKCON ever started their Food For Life Programs. Mahahari prabhu had an amazing affection towards prasadam and always enthusiastically recited these wonderful words just before he honored that aspect of Krishna consciousness which he loved and respected so dearly:
sarira abidya-jal, jodendriya tahe kal,
"O Lord, this material body is a place of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths to death. Somehow, we have fallen into this ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable; it is very difficult to control the tongue in this world. But You, dear Krishna, are very kind to us and have given us such nice prasadam, just to control the tongue. Now we take this prasadam to our full satisfaction and glorify you Lord Radha and Krsna, and in love call for the help of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda."
Most of all, Mahahari prabhu will always be remembered because he stepped forward and allowed himself to be directly engaged in assisting Srila Prabhupada in his mission of pushing forward the Krishna consciousness movement, and for that service Srila Prabhupada assures this, not only to his disciple Mahahari das but to all of his followers with this acknowledgement: "All glories to the devotees engaged in the matter of Krishna consciousness. I am sure that Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will bestow his causeless mercy upon everyone who is engaged in pushing the cause of Krishna consciousness."
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