“Not Yet” Nitai’s Last Rites in India
Nityodita dasa, a longstanding member of the New Vrindaban community remembers his nephew, Nitai Prabhu, a young enthusiastic community member, who recently lost his life with two other devotees in a tragic car accident in Florida. The final rites at the river Ganges took place on Feb. 15. His article follows.
By Nityodita dasa
Mid-morning, amid mourning, the sweet sound of the soft chanting of Hare Krsna accompanied by a single drum and gently played cymbals comes closer. The kirtan party plants itself at the entrance to the Conch building where Nitai’s family is staying. Mandali, Nitai’s wife, his father Jack, his brother Dustin and mother, Carmen and I solemnly shuffle down the stairs in step with the soulful chanting of the Lords holy names.
Nitai’s spiritual master, Radhanath Swami and Mandali’s guru, Krsna Ksetra prabhu head the procession of a hundred friends and well-wishers towards the holy Ganges River along with the head priest of Mayapura, Jananivas.
Carmen squeezes my hand and sobs while we march alongside Nitai’s widow dressed in black, carrying the brass urn filled with the dusty remains of her life and soul, Nitai.
At the rivers bank, an ancient but sturdy river boat awaits to carry the mourning party up and across stream to a secluded and quiet sandy spot. Radhanath Swami takes the lead in the melodious but meditative chanting while the chugging of the boats diesel engine coughs its own methodical song.
Scampering onto the shore, Jananivas creates a sacred container out of a leaf plate and Ganges mud infused with Sanskrit mantras. Placing Nitai’s ashes on the mud plate and sprinkling purified grains and flowers onto the mound, I contemplate my own mortality. Radhanath Swami begins covering the ashes with more Ganges mud until the “lid” is formed.
Jananivas then engages us all the assembled devotees in chanting the required mantras and explains that now is the time to let go of all attachments to the temporary bodily form of Nitai. Sobering up to realize his eternal form as a spirit soul, never to see him, hug him, brainstorm and laugh with him again on this earth is a painful acceptance of Krsna’s will. Surrender.
Radhanath Swami and I carefully lift the sacred pack of Nitai’s remains and enter into the ever flowing, ever loving Mother Ganges and together walk step by step deeper and deeper wondering who else I will have to do this for and who will do it for me?
Waist deep now, Jananivas then instructs, “Now is the time to immerse the ashes!”
Incredulously…….No. “Nitai wants to go deeper,” Radhanath Swami insists……
Up to our chests, we stop. Prayers to Prabhupada, Lord Chaitanya, Nityananda and the Vaisnavas come from our lips. Radhanath Swami, Nitai’s spiritual father, addresses Nitai personally and with deep love in his voice, prays that Radha and Krsna bless Nitai’s existence with eternal love.
Tears pouring from my eyes, we gently swing our arms back and….release…….splash……… gone.
Submerging my shaking body into the moving waters hoping to stop the flow of tears, crying…….failing…….my tears swim after the ashes longing to be on the same journey back home to Godhead as Nitai. Not yet.
Your humble servant,
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