Air crash devotee disaster–how do we respond?
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)