Papaji and His Father’s Death
In the period leading up to Papaji’s departure for Europe, Parmanand, Papaji’s father died in Lucknow. Before I give an account of this, I will move the clock back a little to an earlier incident in which several members of his family thought that Parmanand had died. To give the story a little context I should say that throughout his life Parmanand had been doing japa of ‘Sitaram’ in order of get a vision of his favourite deity. Though Papaji had repeatedly told him not to look for images of gods that would appear and disappear, it was only in his final years that he accepted the wisdom of these remarks.
Papaji now takes up the story:
One day, after a satsang in my house in Narhi, I paid a brief visit to see my father because he had been ill for some time. At that time my parents were living near the banks of the Gomti River on Butler Road.
In the two days that followed I could not manage to see him again because I was busy with a Zen teacher who had come to visit me, along with many other people.
At the end of those two days I was having my early morning bath when my sister, who had been nursing our father, started banging on my door.
I knew that something had happened because she was shouting, ‘Come out at once! This is important! You can have your bath later!’
I couldn’t think of anything that was so urgent that it couldn’t wait till I had finished my bath, so I called back, ‘What’s the hurry? Can’t it wait a few minutes?’
She was in no mood to argue.
She called through the door, with some agitation, ‘Come out! Come out and I will tell you!’
The rickshaw she had arrived in was still waiting outside the house. She hustled me into the rickshaw, telling me on the way that my father had expired during the night. My mother, my younger brother, his wife and several other members of the family had already formed a mourning party at the house. My mother was upset that I hadn’t been present at the moment of my father’s death because there is a tradition that the father should die with his head in his oldest son’s lap. My parents’ house had been bolted from the inside because my mother didn’t want anyone to come in and discover that her oldest son had not been present in the final moments
During my absence, those members of the family who had been present had lifted his body onto the floor and performed the last rites by placing an oil lamp on his right palm. Then they left the body in a room by itself while they waited for me to arrive.
My mother gave me all the details of his final hours as soon as I arrived at the house. Everyone was crying as she recounted how her husband had finally passed away. They were still crying as she opened the door to show me the body. As we went into the room we all witnessed a most incredible sight. My father was sitting up in bed, shaking his walking stick in a very vigorous way. He seemed to be engaged in a fight with some invisible person.
He was shouting, ‘Go away! Go away! I won’t come with you! I am going to stay here!’
My mother almost fainted. She didn’t know whether she was dealing with her husband, a dead man or a ghost.
‘Who are you shouting at?’ she called out when she had regained some control of herself.
My father calmed down a little and said, ‘The gods and my forefathers came with garlands in their hands. They approached me and said, “The chariot is waiting outside. Come with us to the heavens.’
‘I refused to go. I said to them, ‘My son told me not to go to any heavens because, after one has spent a long time in these places, one has to incarnate again on this earth and perform tapas to get enlightened.’
My father was completely unaware that the last rites had already been performed and that the oil lamp was still burning. We only told him later when it looked as if he had returned to his normal mental state.
My mother washed the floor and gave breakfast to my father. Many of the neighbours and all our friends came to see my father. They all wanted to see this man who had refused to go to heaven and who had had the strength to defy even the gods on his deathbed. I stayed for some time to make sure that he was fully restored to health.
When his father finally did die a few years later, Papaji was present at his bedside. In his dying moments Parmanand finally revealed to his son the extent of his faith in him. I have never heard Papaji speak of this final meeting with his father, but there is an eyewitness account from Om Prakash, the only other person who was present during this dramatic encounter.
In 1971 Papaji’s father was seriously ill in a hospital in Lucknow. I think we all knew that he wouldn’t live much longer. I accompanied Papaji to the hospital on what turned out to be the night before his father’s death. It was the middle of the night, maybe around 2.30 a.m. Papaji’s father was lying in a big ward that must have contained about fifty beds. I recollect that Papaji’s father was lying about halfway down the ward. In his final hours he looked very frail and weak. He was being fed intravenously and his body seemed to be tied to the bed. We were told that the pain of the needles had irritated him so much, he had tried to pull them out. To prevent him from trying again, the doctors had ordered that his arms and legs be tied in such a way that he couldn’t reach them. The doctors were also afraid that he would pull the whole intravenous apparatus down and smash it on the floor.
Papaji had been organising the visits to his dying father. He had allowed many people to come and pay their last respects, but he didn’t permit any of them to stay for a long time with him. Papaji had somehow arranged things so that only he and I together could spend any amount of time there in the last few days.
On this last visit Papaji spoke to him about his forthcoming death in a very loving way.
‘Father,’ he said, ‘I have the feeling that you are experiencing a lot of pain. This horse you have been riding all your life is very old and weak now. You must leave this horse and go. If you want, I can give you a new horse right now. It is no problem. There is nothing to be afraid of. I am not a coward,’ answered his father. ‘There is nothing for me to be afraid of. I don’t want a new body, but I know that I will have to leave this one soon. I know that I am on my way to see God, but I am not going there with any fear. When my time comes I will stand before him and say, “I am the father of that enlightened man who is now walking the earth. That man is the true controller of this universe. No one can judge me here. I am the father of the Lord of the Universe.’”
Though his words were whispered and broken, there was a fierce pride in them. He knew that he had lived with God all his life and he was truly afraid of nothing that could happen to him after his death.
He was silent for a while, but after a few minutes a beatific smile lit up his face. He seemed to be having some visionary experience.
‘Look! Look!’ he cried. ‘The gods are present even here! I can see them all! They are all moving around my son and worshipping him. All the cosmos is revolving around him. I can see it with my own eyes!’
What a beauty was contained in those eyes! Neither Papaji nor I could see what he was seeing, but the sight of his eyes alone was sufficient proof that he was witnessing some divine vision.
Finally, as the vision seemed to fade, he whispered, ‘How blessed I am to witness this tiny portion of the kingdom of my son! Has any other father in this universe been granted a blessing like this?’
It was a great privilege to be a witness to this wonderful scene. Papaji’s brothers and sisters were sitting outside the ward. Only Papaji and myself were present during these precious moments.
That was not the end of the revelations of that night. At about 3 a.m., while I was still sitting by the bed, Papaji blessed me with a marvelous vision of my own. As I think about it now in order to describe it, it reappears before my eyes again as if it was yesterday, instead of more than twenty years ago. Papaji’s father had described seeing a vision in which the whole cosmos, along with all its gods and goddesses, was revolving around his son. I now saw something very similar.
I saw innumerable gods and goddesses rotating around Papaji and Ramana Maharshi. Behind the deities, all the stars and planets were also rotating around this same centre. Papaji and the Maharshi were both wearing the kind of crowns that one sees in pictures of Indian kings. There was an intense golden light suffusing the whole scene. It was an ecstatic, blissful experience that completely overpowered me.
After some time I heard Papaji’s sister Sumitra enter the ward. I heard her cry out, ‘Om Prakash is about to fall! Catch him!’
Papaji rushed over to where I was sitting and caught me before I hit the floor. He pulled me back onto my feet, embraced me and then made me walk out of the ward. I didn’t want to walk but Papaji forced me to keep moving. We went out of the hospital and walked up and down some of the deserted streets nearby. I wanted to dwell on the vision I had just had, but Papaji was determined to pull me out of it by discussing my programme for the next day. I had already told him that I had to go to Kanpur the following day to transact some business there. Papaji started to talk about what I would be doing there and forced me to concentrate on what he was saying. Slowly my mind returned to normal. After a few minutes of patrolling the streets and talking about the trivial details of everyday life, I was able to regain full control of all my faculties.
When I had sobered up sufficiently to engage in a sensible conversation with him, I said, ‘Papaji, I don’t really want to go to Kanpur tomorrow. After what I have witnessed tonight in your presence, I have a feeling that I should be quiet for a while in order to assimilate fully what has happened here today.’
Papaji disagreed. ‘No,’ he said, ‘you have to keep your attention on the world for a while. Here are Rs 50 for your travelling expenses. Go home, take some rest while you can, and tomorrow go to Kanpur and transact all your business. Come back as soon as you can. I will see you again when you get back.’
Papaji’s father died the next day while I was in Kanpur. I am still immensely grateful to Papaji for sharing this night with me and for showing me a rare and exquisite glimpse of his divine, cosmic form.
Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume Two, pages 129-134
By David Godman