Last updated on 27th February 2016
The content of this post is from my Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1708309822718921, which is a Facebook share of the Yaani Drucker's Waking Up by Undoing Ego Facebook group post, https://www.facebook.com/notguiltybyyaani/posts/993753847368136.
First the content of Yaani Drucker's post:
Before my husband Al Drucker passed, I wanted him to tell me what to do with the ashes after cremation. He kept blowing me off, as if to say, what do I care about what happens to the body after I shed it. I'm not confused about what's real and important.
Just days before he passed, I was prompted by Swami to share the write up of Kasturi-ji's passing. As I read it, I could tell Al was hanging on every word, just drinking it in. I could tell it was because though death is nothing, and not real, still Baba shows that it is important what happens at the time of death, and even thereafter in relation to the body.
The following day, Al was trying to tell me something. It was no longer easy for him to speak. When the nurse came in earlier, he had wanted to know if he'd had a stroke. No she assured him, after asking him to raise both arms together, and then both legs together, which he did, it was only the body closing down. I knew time was now short.
At first I could not get what Al was communicating. Then I understood he was saying ashes. "Ashes! You want me to bring your ashes to Sai Baba's ashram? Is that it?" YES, he let me know.
So I assured him that that would be their final resting place.
I understood that he saw death differently after hearing the telling of Kasturi's final moments. Its subtle and profound, because we all talk about the world as illusion, as unreal, and same with death, and yet, we cannot blow them off. We must meet all with the utmost respect and love, and then the unreal is transformed into the real. That is I believe what was taking place in Al's mind in that moment and what allowed him to take his maha-samadhi. Jai Sai Ram!
[Ravi: The account below is about Bhagavan's very well known devotee, biographer and writer, Sri N. Kasturi.]
A Phantasmagoric Fragrance Forever
Excerpts from a much longer article
Kasturi became too weak to walk, he would come to the Mandir on the wheelchair which would be placed right in front of Swami’s interview room door. And one morning, seeing him on his chair, Swami flashed a mischievous smile, and said, “What Kasturi?…No election, no selection and you have become a Chairman!”
Another day He came out of the interview room, walked up to him, and pointing to his body, said, ‘Kasturi! This is a 19th century model!" (Kasturi was born in 1897). Swami, then, turned and now pointing towards the interview room, said, “Even this repair workshop cannot fix this model now.” The next moment He looked deep into his eyes and asked, “Kasturi, are you afraid?” “No, Swami” came the soft but solid reply. Swami then advised: “Take Swami’s name. Don’t worry!” And this is exactly what Professor Kasturi ceaselessly did till the Lord set his soul free.
Describing the last months of this illustrious being, which is a spiritual treatise by itself, Mrs. Padma says, “One year before he became one with The Eternal, he had severe back pain. This was in 1986. He could no longer climb the stairs to go to His Presence in the Mandir. The Lord, who was eagerly enquiring about his absence, Himself came to our little room in the South Block to see him. On the first occasion, He suddenly stepped in one day after morning bhajans and asked him, ‘What happened? Why aren’t you coming?’ ‘Swami, this back pain is terrible,’ answered my father, lying on the cot. Swami then materialized Vibhuti, filled his palm with it and walked away.
Eight days passed, but father still could not go to see Him. The concerned Sai came again. And this time, my father said, ‘Swami, You please give me a thump on my back and I will just be alright.’ But the Lord only lovingly looked at him and said, ‘No, that is not the way. You come to the Mandir in a wheelchair.’”
So that is how Kasturi became a ‘Chairman’ as Swami joked and the charming saga of this devotee and his beloved continued, though now, much subdued, if you saw it superficially. Unfortunately, a few days after this, the respectable octogenarian, who had battled through more than eighty five summers and winters, chills and thrills, hailstones and storms, was suddenly down with a jeopardising jaundice. “Swami was not here then; it was the month of April and He was in Bangalore,” recalls Mrs. Padma.
“My father became very weak, and when this news was conveyed to Swami, He sent him Vibhuti through many people. But, for whatever inscrutable reason of the Divine and destiny, nothing seemed to work. His voice lost the usual power. The doctors said he was low on sugar, and his speech became feeble. They wanted to administer him glucose but my father would have nothing of it. Having never done a thing in his life, without Divine Permission, he insisted on instructions from Swami. Message was sent to Him and only after that did he relent to the needle and the much needed supplement. Still, any sign of recovery seemed like a fantasy and his frame became even frailer.
He Pined for Him Piteously
“During this time in Brindavan, Swami had taken upon Himself the heart attack of a devotee and did not grant darshan for three days. It was the year 1987. And after He finally gave darshan, one devotee who had seen Swami there came to my father and said, ‘Swami was looking so weak! He has become very thin.’ Immediately my father began to cry, ‘Oh, I want to see Swami! I want to see my Swami, please!’ Lying on the bed, he told me, ‘You take me early in the morning. Swami must be coming out at about 9 O’clock . I will have just one glimpse, at least, and then we can be back. I do not want anything else. Everybody is saying He has become very weak. I have to see my Swami somehow’. But I was in a dilemma.
The position of his health was too precarious to travel, but at the same time, his desire to see Him was too intense. Finally, when I could no longer withstand his piteous pleading, I said to myself, ‘Alright, let me take him to Brindavan, even if it means taking a huge, and actually dreadful, risk’, as one could not really exclude any serious untoward happening on the way. In any case, I arranged for a cab, but he said, ‘Do not go and tell Mr. Kutumba Rao (the then Ashram caretaker) now itself, because, I know, he will call and inform Swami, and Baba will refuse to my going there. I do not want this to happen’. But I said, ‘Father, you are a property of Prasanthi Nilayam, not just my father. The whole ashram will blame me if anything happens to you on the way. I cannot take such a chance, so, let me please inform Mr. Kutumba Rao.’
“Then he said, ‘Okay, you go to him, but only after 10 o ’clock ’ because by then, my father reasoned, Swami would already have retired. So, the cab arrived, I had finished packing, and then went to Mr. Kutumba Rao. As soon as he heard my plan, he said, ‘You are taking a risk!’ ‘I have to,’ I said, ‘because father is giving me no other choice! His pleadings are so heart-breaking. If anything has to happen in the way, let it be. I just cannot help it. Whatever the case may be, his mind is completely fixed on Swami, and as a daughter, it is very difficult for me to resist his painful pleas.’
But he said, ‘No, this is not the right thing to do. I will come and convince him’. And so, the next minute, Mr. Kutumba Rao, along with Dr. Alreja, came to our room and tried to persuade him to give up the idea. But when nothing worked, they finally said, ‘Kasturi garu, this cab is not a good one; it is very shaky and uncomfortable. We will arrange a good car for you and inform Swami too, and then you can go.’
“Wait for Sai” – Swami
So, father, in spite of desperate desire, could not see Swami that day, and the whole night, he spent only sobbing and shedding tears. ‘How pathetic is my fate!…This has to befall on me!…I cannot even go to see Swami!..’ he went on and on. Then he wrote a letter to Swami; but his hand was highly unsteady and it looked like a sorry scribble on a sheet of paper. I, therefore, suggested that it is better I keep a note along with his paper so that the content of his letter is clear to Swami, but he said, ‘No, you cannot keep a note along with my letter. If you want, you write a separate one and post it on your own. You cannot send it through Mr. Kutumba Rao; he is not a postman to take everybody’s letter to Swami. He can only take my letter, that’s it’. He was very strict in these matters, and therefore I wrote and posted mine, while he sent his through Mr. Kutumba Rao.
And then the most wonderful thing happened. Swami replied to him! It was an inspiring instruction from the Divine. The letter was dated April 1987 and it read, ‘Kasturi, accept My blessings! Do not have fear of any kind. Swami is always with you, in you and around you. Be brave. Think of Him only. Give up any other thoughts. The body is a water bubble. Do not worry about it. Spend your time thinking of Swami only. - Yours, Baba’. Father was, of course, happy to read this, but the agony of his unfulfilled darshan remained.
“Swami did not return till it was June. But before He came, as if responding to his intense yearning to have at least one glance, Swami wrote him another letter. This was in June, 1987. ‘Kasturi, accept My blessings! Sai is always with you, in you and around you. Be in bliss. Do not think of anything else. Be always in the thought of God. That is the main sadhana (spiritual practice) that you have to be engaged in now. I will come back soon. Wait for Sai’. And to father’s relief and rejoice, Swami returned in June, and he eagerly went in the wheelchair to watch and savour His Beloved again. But when Swami came near him, He said (in Telugu), ‘nee asthamana samayam osthavundi’ meaning, ‘Your evening time is approaching…be ready’.
“In spite of his irresistible desire to be in His Presence, he could not make it to the Mandir everyday. His health was deteriorating by the day, and so, we sent word to Swami about his condition through Sri Karunyananda and Mr. Kutumba Rao.
Swami, then, sent the message: ‘I will come, I will come’. And because of this, from that day onwards, even if there was a slightest sound of footsteps in the room, he would get up and expectantly ask, ‘Is that Swami?...’, ‘Has He come?...’, ‘He must have come!...’
It was heart-rending to see how much he clamoured and craved for Him. But Swami, in the meanwhile, sent us the message that there would a big crowd and the resultant confusion if He came to our home, and therefore, He said, ‘Ask them to admit Kasturi in the hospital and I will come there and see him.’
Liberation Here and Now
“But before this, there is one significant event that happened which I must mention. It was the Guru Poornima Day in June 1987. Swami was delivering His Divine Discourse in Poorna Chandra Auditorium, and I was keen to hear Him on that significant day. As my son, Ramesh, was also there that day taking care of him, I came out of the room and sat on the steps near the South Block with my ears glued to His booming voice. But during this time, it seems, father called Ramesh and said, ‘Sri Kasturi is dead. I’m Atma”. My son was shocked. But father persisted, ‘Go and tell everybody that Kasturi is dead!’ So Ramesh got worried and frightened, and immediately came to me. When I went, he said the same thing to me again. ‘Kasturi is dead. I’m only Atma. Don’t force me food or anything.’ I replied, ‘No, I won’t force you. But until the body is here, we have to take good care of it. So please cooperate. I won’t coax you any more to eat or do anything, but please if you want anything, just ask without a second thought, and it will be done.’
“From that day, he stopped talking on anything other than Swami. He did not even crave for Him as pathetically as before. He was just immersed in himself. Maybe that was the realization. Because, once, many years ago, a naadi (ancient palm leaf inscriptions about the future) scholar, by name, Gunjoor Narayan Shastrigal had come to Swami when He was in Brindavan and reading my father’s naadi, he had said that he will attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi in his last moments. It seems, when he said this, my father, at that time, laughed. ‘I? Getting Nirvikalpa Samadhi? This is all bogus!’ He told Swami.
But Bhagavan then had apparently said, ‘No, don’t laugh. Why not? You might get it. Don’t laugh at this.’ Therefore, when father was totally with himself, oblivious to every external sound or stimulus, during this time, I remembered this incident; I thought, maybe, he is going through that transcendental liberating experience, because after that ‘I am the Atma’ moment, he only wanted silence; never liked us conversing with people who came to meet him. When somebody suggested that we play Vishnusahasranama (thousand eight names of Lord Vishnu), he outrightly refused. He wanted absolute serenity and silence around him at all times.
“And as Swami had instructed, we admitted him in the General Hospital on August 7, and true to His word, the very next day He arrived. The Loving Lord made him drink one full glass of water and before He left, said the same thing: “Don’t think of anything. Think of Swami only”. And to others he said that no visitors are to be allowed to see him. Father was completely in a different plane. He didn’t like even us, mother and son, talking to each other. ‘No…Silence’ he would indicate but never utter a syllable. Therefore, if we had to talk about anything often we would come out of the room. We maintained the ambience as quiet as possible.
And then, the momentous day arrived – August 14. But two days prior to this, he had started bleeding because of liver complications, and when Swami was asked if blood transfusion should be done, He said, ‘No, nothing needs to be done. His time is coming. Just give him slow glucose.’ And on the morning of that eventful day, he was semi-conscious. We could see his breathing had become an ordeal; he was trying to deep breathe with great difficulty. I tried to call him, but there was no response. My son, with whose voice he was very familiar, called out to him too, but there was no sign of consciousness. Worried, we sent word to Swami through Dr. Alreja, but Swami said, ‘No, he is fine; the time is coming close. I will come and see him at the hospital’. The morning bhajan ended and we were expecting Swami, but instead of coming to the hospital, He drove into the Institute Auditorium.”
‘I have to go, Kasturi is not well’ - Swami
Narrating the happenings at the Auditorium, Mr B. N. Narasimha Murthy, who was there with Swami on that morning, says, “Swami came to see the rehearsal of the drama to be staged by the boys on the first anniversary of the MBA course, and He seemed deeply engrossed watching the performance. But at 11.30, He suddenly stood up and said, ‘I have to go, Kasturi is not well,’ and went to the General Hospital. When Swami arrived at the Hospital, the only noise in Kasturi’s room was the trickling of water from a tap in the bathroom. Swami called a nurse and said, ‘Stop it’. Then Swami went to the bedside of His dear devotee and into his ear He gently called, ‘Kasturi…Kasturi’ and immediately he opened his eyes and started to fold his palms.” “He wanted to offer his salutations,” says Mrs. Padma. “But Swami caught hold of both his hands with much love and created vibhuthi.
He applied the Divine Ash Himself on his forehead, neck and hands, and whatever was still remaining in His Hand, He gave it to me and asked, ‘Did he take anything since morning?’ ‘No food, Swami,’ I said. ‘I’m only wetting his lips with coconut water whenever it gets dry’. Then He looked at me and said firmly, ‘Chesko…” (do) pointing to His Feet. The next moment I prostrated at His feet and looking at His eyes I understood that it was His way of saying, ‘Now, it’s My responsibility to take care of you. It’s over.’ Then He asked my son too to do the same. After that He went down and told the doctors, ‘There is one hour more. You all go and repeat “Sairam” “Sairam”.’
And before He finally left, He said, ‘We have to arrange a band for his funeral procession. He is a respectable world figure; the procession should be grand.’ And after Swami left, all the staff of the Hospital came and started chanting “Om Sri Sai Ram”, “Om Sri Sai Ram”.
The difficulty in breathing which was there before Swami came had disappeared. Now, it was smooth and slow; and exactly after one hour, just as Swami had stated, around 12.30 pm, his breathing stopped. The doctor attending on him started chanting “Shri Ganesha”, Shri Ganesha”; father was onto a new road, a new journey.
Immediately the word was sent to Swami and He instructed that the body be kept in the guest house, which was located just beside the Hospital building then, and everybody could go there and pay their homage. Later, as many arrived to bow down reverentially where his body lay, He sent another message: ‘Start bhajans,” and Sri Karunyananda arrived with a garland from Swami. A few minutes and there were further instructions. ‘Continue bhajans till 7 pm and then lock the room. Nobody needs to be there. It can be opened again at 6 am the next morning,’ was Bhagavan’s command. But many expressed reservations and apprehensions. ‘No, a dead body should not be kept in this manner. Somebody should be there,’ they said. ‘Otherwise, ants may come.’ But Swami sent word again. ‘No ants will come. I will take care of it. You just lock it now and open again only at 6 in the morning.’ So all of us returned home.
A Grand Reunion
“In the meantime, Swami sent Mr. Chiranjeevi Rao to us to find out if it was okay to use a band for the funeral as it was not a custom in our caste. But I said, ‘It is Swami’s Kasturi; it is not at all my Kasturi, or my father. Whatever Swami wants, He may do. We are all happy.’ So we closed the bhajan at 7 pm and returned at 6 in the morning, and when we opened the door, what did we find?
The whole room was permeated with a divine fragrance! And his face! It was shining! Though it was all sunken, dry and dark because of extreme weakness and bleeding the previous night.
The whole ambience was so dramatically and divinely different. It seems when Dr. Shantha, who was along with me, opened the door she felt as if something or somebody was pushing her from inside. And Swami, the next morning, told the boys in the Mandir, ‘I was there with him the whole night’.” That was the glorious finale of a great saga of ‘appetizing adjacency’ (as Kasturi himself calls it) with the Divine of a devotee that again will never be.
On August 15, Swami even closed the Ashram Canteen and asked everyone present to attend the funeral procession which was an elaborate affair with music, vedam, band, etc. But ladies were restricted for this journey from the Hospital to the Chiravathi as the Ashram authorities felt there was every chance of a stampede, the gathering assuming gargantuan proportions.
“After the cremation was complete,” Mrs Padma recalls, “Sri Karunyananda came to me and said, ‘Amma, your father was a superlatively great man. He attained “Kapala moksha”, the kind of liberation-release that happens when the ‘atma’ or the ‘life-force’ floats away from the body breaking the centre of the skull. I am fortunate to be able to see this.’ Not only he, many expressed similar sentiments of their immense good luck to be present and be part of the occasion. And in the evening, Swami came near me and said, ‘He attained what he has to attain. So have no worries; you do not need to do any rituals either. He has merged in Swami!”
---- end Yaani Drucker post ----
My FB shared post comments are as follows:
Fascinating account about Sri Al Drucker's response to his wife, Yaani Drucker, reading him about Sri N. Kasturi's last days and how Swami profusely blessed Sri N. Kasturi during that period. Mr. Drucker's response really touched my heart. Great soul! I very much liked the way Yaani put it: "We must meet all with the utmost respect and love, and then the unreal is transformed into the real. That is I believe what was taking place in Al's mind in that moment and what allowed him to take his maha-samadhi."
--- end my FB shared post comments ---
[I thank Yaani Drucker, Mrs Padma (Sri N. Kasturi's daughter) and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]
Readers may want to read the following blog posts related to Mr. Al Drucker:
1) An Interview (in 1999 perhaps) with Al Drucker (of atmapress.com), http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2016/02/an-interview-with-al-drucker.html.
2) Al Drucker, long-time Sai devotee, has passed away; My gratitude to him for sharing his writings and videos, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2016/02/al-drucker-long-time-sai-devotee-has.html, dated 21st February 2016.