It is time to tell the story of our dear brother Dharmananda who on the morning of the 14th of September left his body and now rejoices in the Lord’s heart. His last few hours in this world were one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I shall do my best to honour the experience, the ‘moment’, Sri Swami Vishwananda and Dharmananda.
On the night of the 13th of September 2013 Sri Swami Vishwananda decided to go and visit Dharmananda at his home. His health had been slowly deteriorating for some time already and so we were all quite eager to go and spend time with him and be at his side, supporting him with our love. It had been one year since Dharma was diagnosed with tumours in his body and the events that followed that night were the culmination of a long journey, through many lifetimes even, one felt. Swamiji, together with 4 other devotees and myself, arrived at the house of Dharmananda in Bonn in the early hours of the 14th, at around half past midnight. We were welcomed by his mother, sister and neighbour who have been lovingly looking after Dharma and helping him with his every day needs. As we entered his room immediately we all noticed one thing. That the man we saw here was not Dharmananda. It was but a shell, the body was merely a vehicle for the great servant of the Lord that we had known and loved for years. Though physically diminished and weak, his presence was immensely strong in the room and his serenity and calmness could be felt almost instantly. As he was sleeping at the time, Guruji gently woke him up, caressing his head and holding the hand of his dear devotee. As Dharma awoke and saw who was at his bedside he lovingly exclaimed, “Guruji! Guruji!” His eyes were so very different from those so familiar to us for years. As he locked eyes with Guruji one could see the purity and sincerity of his immeasurable joy at having his Guru by his side one more time. Unable to really speak at all due to the sheer amount of physical pain and fatigue, Dharma simply stared at his beloved and held his hand tight. Witnessing this, it was clear to all there that Dharma’s life was nearing its end. Yet one thing had permeated the entire room and filled the hearts of all present in a most powerful way. The Love relationship between the Master and the disciple is something beyond comprehension. Beyond expression. Beyond measurement and far surpassing anything else any of us have ever seen or felt in our lives. Dharma was looked after daily by his mother, his sister, his family yet one could feel the joy in him at the simple sight of his Guru. I won’t hold back in saying that the love a human can share for another is but a joke compared to that which the Guru holds for his children. As Swamiji caressed him, held his hand and showered his love on him we could do nothing but cry tears of bewilderment and joy. The realisation came to us that here was a brother who had attained that which we all dream and wish for in the depths of our hearts. The Lord had come to his side at the time of his departure to hold his hand and nurture him. To repay all the love and service offered by Dharmananda, Swamiji had come to be by his side and fulfil his soul’s deepest wishes. We could only rejoice at the wonder of the occasion. During one moment, Swamiji loosened His grip on Dharma’s hand simply to re-adjust his seat, but fearing that Guruji was in fact leaving Dharma, with all his effort, he held Guruji’s hand and motioned him not to leave his side! It was so incredibly sweet and innocent. Like the child who never wants to leave his mother’s side.
So at this point Swamiji asked Dharma if he wanted us to sing for him. Dharma’s whole life was music; it was his passion and his service to Swamiji and Bhakti Marga for a full 10 years. Needless to say Dharma’s eyes lit up at the suggestion and he gently said, “Sing! Sing!” So as it was Radhashtami on Friday, Guruji accompanied by all present began singing Radha bhajans for almost 30 minutes non-stop. Dharma rested peacefully and from time to time a smile would break out on his face. Can you imagine a more beautiful scene? With his spiritual family and his Gurudev at his bed side, holding his hand, singing the Divine Names to him with tears of joy, it made us all think of the one time that Swami said “The master will be with the disciple at the time of his passing but not the devotee. To a true disciple only does the Master afford this grace”. This was exactly what was happening.
As time passed, Guruji left Dharma’s side and spoke words of Love and reassurance to the family as the rest of us kept Dharma company. I was curious to see what his reaction would be when he opened his eyes and no longer found Guruji by his side but instead Pramod, Swami Vijaya, Swami Keshava, Pankaj and myself. Would there be disappointment? But the answer was no. He gazed upon us with such love and appreciation that you would not believe. He squeezed my hand as if it was a confirmation that he was so happy to have us by his side. Still, the sweetest moment of the night had yet to come. When Swami returned to his place at Dharma’s bedside, Dharma used all the strength in his body to reach over the bed and try to grab Guruji’s leg, motioning that he wished to touch his Guru’s Lotus Feet. Swami obliged and raised his foot and placed it over the bed ledge and next to Dharma’s head. Upon first sight of His feet, Dharma inched his head forward and started to kiss them as quickly as he could. It was the culmination of so many emotions, so much surrender and Bhakti. I will not even attempt to describe this moment further for it was too extraordinary and incomprehensible to the ignorant human mind. At this moment I found myself praying for Dharma to leave his body immediately! What luck and what grace! I could not picture a more ideal way to go such was the beauty of it all. It brings tears to my eyes just to picture it once more.
As time passed Guruji decided it was time to leave as Dharma’s caretakers also needed to rest as by now it was around 3am. We all said our goodbyes to Dharma and the family. As we left, I touched his feet and took his blessings upon my head as I felt this would be the last time I would ever see Dharmananda in this body. This proved to be true. As we were in the car returning to Springen, Swamiji said that at the time of his death all the Holy Masters will come to receive him and take him to Heaven. It came as no surprise to any of us for having just seen the pure love shared between disciple and Guru for hours, there could be no doubt of what was to come for Dharma. So the next morning I received a call from Guruji at around 9.30 am at which point he told me the news that Dharmananda had died at 5am earlier that morning, a mere 2 hours after we had left his side. Guruji was crying on the phone as he told me that despite all the happiness and joy we felt for him, he was still a little sad for the loss of his dear disciple. Can you imagine how much love one must have for God and Guru to earn such reward? When one can see how much Swami loves Dharma and how much he did, does and will do for him, then only can one appreciate the magnitude of what Dharma was truly able to accomplish in this life. It is the wish and dream of every devotee to be in the heart of the master at all times and I can say without any hesitation or doubt that Dharmananda now rests in the heart of Sri Swami Vishwananda eternally. So I went up to Swamiji’s bungalow to be with Him and together with Swami Vijaya and Pramod we began to discuss and reflect on the night’s events and what had just come to pass. Swami revealed to us immediately that just as he had predicted, the Masters had indeed come to take Dharmananda at the time of his departure. At around 5am, his sister who was looking after him at the time had a sudden urge to visit the neighbour for whatever reason thus leaving Dharma alone in his room. At that very moment Mahavatar Babaji Himself and all the Holy Masters came to Dharma. Swami said that He Himself travelled there to be at his side and that Dharma was fully conscious before his death and that he met Babaji and all present and then he departed his body.
Upon hearing this we all smiled in immense joy for our brother for he had done it. He was truly the luckiest man in all the worlds in that moment and we could feel nothing but joy, joy and more joy for him. We began to reflect on all the lessons and experiences we were able to take away from not only the previous night but Dharma’s life as a whole. First I want to start off by saying this; Dharmananda was just like me or you. He was a seeker, a devotee of the Lord with the same troubles, the same doubts, the same faults and the same obstacles as we all face on our spiritual path. Yet when Life took an extreme turn for him he was able to see past all that and truly surrender to his Guru. Swami helped him immeasurably to achieve that goal. Swami had granted Dharma a confession not too long back in a final act to remove all guilt or fault present inside him and I promise you I have never seen Dharma so free in my entire life. He had no baggage, no attachments, no guilt, no anything! This is the grace of the Guru. When he sees the true sincere seeker he will take every step necessary to help that devotee advance as far as he can. Dharmananda had left each one of us with the sensation of Hope. A Hope that no matter how ‘bad’ your life may seem and no matter how many mistakes you may think you have done, there is always a path to the Lord’s heart and your guide will be your humility, sincerity and surrender. That Hope is none other than Sri Swami Vishwananda. Only through Him can this be a reality. Only through Him can the unworthy be deemed worthy. Only through Him can the lost be truly and eternally found for He is the only reality in this world. And must we go through what our dear brother went through to come to this realisation? Must we bear such suffering and pain to finally acknowledge that He is the only one that can and will always be by your side no matter what and surrender to His Lotus Feet? I pray not and Dharmananda has shown us that surrender and becoming a disciple of the Lord is not this far away, unattainable dream that seems to impossibly difficult. Two years ago I remember sitting in a crowded restaurant with him eating a veggie burger, cracking jokes and loving life on our way to perform at a Darshan with Swamiji and I couldn’t help but feel a renewal of spirit within me. Here was a man no different than any of us and now two years later the Premavatar and the Mahavatar of this world are carrying him to heaven personally. If that doesn’t inspire you then I don’t know what will.
With all this said, it is my sincere wish that all who have ever known or been touched by Dharmananda and his love for God and Guru honour his life and memory by surrendering to the Lord and letting go of all which is of no importance in our lives. To let go of all our fears, guilt and ideas and submit to He who is the one true Lover of Mankind. I have witnessed it with my very eyes and with my heart and believe me when I say to you that you want exactly what Dharmananda attained and if you don’t then you should. Let us not waste these valuable lessons and opportunities afforded to us for we never know when our time of reckoning will come. So sing, sing and sing like Dharmananda did his whole life and you are sure to receive the same Love and reward from the greatest being I have ever come to know, Premavatar Sri Swami Vishwananda.