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Air crash devotee disaster–how do we respond?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 / Published in Articles / 4,993 views

By Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Goswami

After an evening class I was suddenly informed that a plane crash in Nepal had killed at least six devotees. I was stunned and dismayed on hearing this very sad news. I quickly checked web sites to see any details of the tragedy. I read the brief photo and devotional biography summaries of the “victims”. They were all wonderful devotees, having distinguished themselves with glorious devotional service.

How, then, are we to understand that they died in an “accident”? Are we to believe that Krishna abandoned them? Was Krishna looking the other way when suddenly this disaster cut down His devotees? Is Krishna not actually the protector of His devotees after all? Is He neglectful, callous, indifferent to devotees who have faithfully served Him for years? These doubts might plague the minds of inexperienced devotees whose faith is not strong.

Never the less, we experience heart pain in hearing of such a disaster befalling sincere devotees. We are left with the discomfort of confronting the fact that the Supreme Lord is completely independent, unpredictable, and inconceivable. Mahaprabhu says “You are my worshipable Lord unconditionally, even if You handle me roughly by Your embrace”. Death of the body in a plane crash is definitely a “rough embrace”.

However, we cannot guess what is the plan of the Lord when such a disaster happens to devotees. We are forced to accept His inconceivable plan, though it greatly pains us, as in this case. Under no circumstance can we say that Krishna made a mistake. He is infallible. This is the conclusion of all the scriptures. Infallible by definition means “cannot make any mistake, ever”. This means the “problem” is on our end, not Krishna’s end, nor on the part of the “victims”. I put “victims” in quotes because we cannot actually believe that Krishna was wrong, cruel, cold, ungrateful, indifferent, or faulty in His independent decision to “take the lives” of these sincere devotees. He took away only their bodies, not really their lives, unless you want to say that He “took their lives” by embracing them in His own abode. It is sure and certain that only their bodies perished in the crash, but Krishna personally, lovingly took care of their souls.

It is not that Krishna forgot who they are. Impossible. Once I was having a conversation with Jayananda prabhu in about 1969, San Francisco, USA. We were discussing the verse in Gita where Krishna says that “my devotee never perishes”. I was a very new devotee, inexperienced. I took the position that this meant that Krishna would always protect the body of a devotee, no matter what happened. Jayananda, however, said that Krishna means He will always protect the soul, not necessarily the body; so we disagreed. Decades of devotee history, including this disaster, prove Jayananda was correct, and I was wrong.

Though the circumstance is very sad, and I took a terrible hit on first hearing this “bad news”, we must accept that we take the heavy loss of these sincere devotees, but in reality, they are doing fine. It was not actually an accident at all! Krishna took the devotees personally by His sweet will. there is nothing that we can do to reverse this. Prabhus ask that we should pray for the departed devotees, but we should be confident that, in reality, Krishna is very grateful for their years of sincere service, and He (Tribanga Krishna, the flute player) is personally taking care of them.

They have entered into nitya lila with Krishna somewhere where His manifest pastimes are taking place, so the loss is ours, not theirs. We should have no doubt about this. We must be confident that Krishna is taking care of those devotees with extra love and affection, and that the all-compassionate, thoughtful Lord has acted according to His sweet will, far beyond any bodily or mundane consideration. Of course we are still sad for the loss, but those devotees are in safe hands, His hands, His embrace, and are blissfully protected by Him in Gokula or the spiritual world. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, who has made this deliverance of sincere souls possible.

In service to all the Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis,

Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Goswami (ACBSP)

2 Responses to “Air crash devotee disaster–how do we respond?”

  1. Puskaraksa das says :

    In this material world, we lament over the departure of our dear ones,.. As a matter of fact, we suffer from the separation from our beloved ones, which is quite natural and understandable! But we have to accept their being transfered to another posting and seva by the Supreme Controller, just like an employee may be transfered to another service and location, by his/her boss, the difference being that Krishna will always keep our highest welfare in mind. So, whatever the arrangement of Krishna may be, it is the best arrangement.

    Nevertheless, we have to remember that our foremost attachment should be for God. This is common to all religions. For instance, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, love of God comes first, before the love for oneself and one’s fellowman.

    In Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krishna repeats twice this cardinal instruction:

    man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
    mad-yaji mam namaskuru
    mam evaishyasi yuktvaivam
    atmanam mat-parayanah

    Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. (B.g. 9.34)


    man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
    mad-yaji mam namaskuru
    mam evaishyasi satyam te
    pratijane priyo ‘si me

    Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (B.g. 18.65)

    So, if one becomes a pure devotee, one is assured of going back to Krishna!

    If I may, I will confide to our readers, that I do not just speak theoritically, but from experience, as my first wife departed in 1992, on Papamocani Ekadasi, at the age of 36. Cancer was the external cause for her departure, but as our Gurudeva, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, had assured her: “Krishna personally gave you this disease!”. Then, he had added “He is submitting you to a severe test, But if you accept this test as His mercy, you will become eligible to attain to His lotus feet”. Then he quoted this verse:

    tat te ‘nukampam susamikshamano
    bhunjana evatma-kritam vipakam
    hrid-vag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
    jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak

    “My dear Lord, one who constantly waits for Your causeless mercy to be bestowed upon him and who goes on suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart. is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.” Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.8)

  2. Puskaraksa das says :

    As it is, Yamuna devi dasi passed the test and actually became a pure devotee, confiding that she always heard the maha mantra within her mind, even at night, when she was sleeping, which later Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja commented “See, this is samadhi!”. Krishna Himself appeared to her twice, she had a vision of the spiritual world, i.e. “of where she was going”, according to the vey words of our Guru Maharaja, …

    Afetr her passing away, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja testified that Yamuna devi dasi went straight back to Godhead and publicly declared his guruship successful, as one of his disciples had become a pure devotee and gone back to Godhead.

    So, even if we may not be in a position to determine, being still on the conditioned platform, what the final destination of these departed devotees is, we must remain confident that Lord Krishna is serving their highest welfare. Moreover,

    nehābhikrama-nāśo ‘sti
    pratyavāyo na vidyate
    sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
    trāyate mahato bhayāt

    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. (B.g. 2.40)

    Hence, we must rest assured that, as Srila Prabhupada did put it, “as devotees, their future is bright!”.

    As devotees, we do not aspire for liberation… We only aspire to serve the Supreme Lord and his dear devotees, life after life – janme janme Prabhu sei – janma janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi – unconditionally, as Maharaja duly quoted:

    ashlishya va pada-ratam pinashtu mam
    adarshanan marma-hatam karotu va
    yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
    mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah

    I know no one but Krsna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally. Siksastakam (8)

    Thereby, we all have been granted, by the Supreme Lord’s mercy, a valuable opportunity to prove our unconditional love for Him, and increase our surrender by keeping full faith in the constant protection of the Lord, whatever the circumstances may be…

    We may also address our prayers for the welfare of the other departed souls who left their bodies in this plain crash, be they crew members or other fellow passengers.

    As it is, the pure devotee is dear to all, and all are dear to him…

    Hare Krishna
    Yours in seva

    Puskaraksa das

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