ISKCON’s seniormost monk Mahavishnu Goswami has peacefully passed away at the society’s Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, India, at 3pm Indian Standard Time on Monday January 25th. He was ninety-one years old.
His Holiness had suffered from ill health due to his advanced age for the past several years, although he had been 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 Nasik, a holy city 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, Mahavishnu Goswami suddenly began to experience sharp, convulsive pains in both legs. Devotees consulted with Bhaktivedanta Hospital doctors and returned their guru to the Mumbai hospital early on the morning of Sunday January 17th.
Remarkably, Mahavishnu Goswami seemed completely undisturbed by his imminent passing. “I have purchased the train 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 “Bhagavat-Saptahas” during which he lectured on the Srimad-Bhagavatam for six non-stop hours each day for seven days, His Holiness was known for his deep love of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And 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 Mahavishnu Goswami’s very last moments. “Many devotees were present chanting Kirtan,” says close friend Kavichandra 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.”
The body of Mahavishnu Goswami will now remain in Mumbai for two days while disciples come from afar to pay their respects. His Holiness will then be transported to his beloved Nasik, where a Samadhi (mausoleum) will be built for him.
While the disciples Mahavishnu 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.
Devotees across the globe will remember Mahavishnu Goswami as a dedicated and powerful spiritual teacher, who completed twelve world tours since taking the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1991 at the age of 71.
He was born into a family who had been Vaishnavas for eight generations, and was highly educated, with M.A degrees in both 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 Dwaraka, 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, Mahavishnu 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 amongst us, and I pray that I can follow in his footsteps,” says Kavichandra Swami.
Explaining the appropriate sentiments to be expressed when a great devotee passes away, he quotes Gaudiya Vaishnava guru Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati upon the departure of his own guru, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura: “Today is one of great happiness and not the slightest grief. Today our master has re-entered 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 even more concentratedly.”
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