On November 14, 1977, at 7:30 P.M., in his room at the Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vṛndāvana, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave his final instruction by leaving this mortal world and going back to Godhead.
His departure was exemplary, because his whole life was exemplary. His departure marked the completion of a lifetime of pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. A few days before the end, Śrīla Prabhupāda had said he was instructing as far as he could, and his secretary had added, “You are the inspiration.” “Yes,” Śrīla Prabhupāda had replied, “that I shall do until the last breathing.”
Prabhupāda’s “last breathing” was glorious, not because of any last minute mystical demonstration, but because Śrīla Prabhupāda remained in perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Like grandfather Bhīṣmadeva, he remained completely collected and noble and grave, teaching until the end. He was preaching that life comes from life, not from matter, and he was showing that one should preach with every breath he has. The many devotees who crowded the large room bore witness that up to the very end, Prabhupāda remained exactly the same. There was nothing suddenly in congruous with what he had previously shown and taught them. At the time of his departure, therefore, he was teaching how to die, by always depending on Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda’s passing away was peaceful. During the evening of November 14, the kavirāja asked him, “Is there anything you want?” and Prabhupāda replied faintly, kuch icchā nahīṁ: “I have no desire.” His passing away was in the perfect situation: in Vṛndāvana, with devotees. A few months previously, a young girl, the daughter of one of Prabhupāda’s disciples, had passed away in Vṛndāvana, and when Śrīla Prabhupāda had been asked if she went back to Godhead to personally associate with Kṛṣṇa, he had said, “Yes, anyone who leaves his body in Vṛndāvana is liberated.”
Of course, “Vṛndāvana” also means the state of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As Advaita Ācārya had said of Lord Caitanya, “Wherever You are is Vṛndāvana.” And this was also true of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Had Śrīla Prabhupāda passed away in London, New York, or Moscow, therefore, his destination would have been the same. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā, “One who is always thinking of Me, surely he attains to Me.” But because Vṛndāvana-dhāma is the quintessential realm of Kṛṣṇa consciousness within the universe, the ideal place for departure from this world, so it was yet another exemplary feature of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s life that he went back to Godhead with Vṛndāvana as his last junction.
Those Vaiṣṇavas who had taken the vow never to risk leaving Vṛndāvana could see that Śrīla Prabhupāda, after sacrificing everything-including the benefit of residing in Vṛndāvana-to deliver fallen souls in the most godforsaken locations of the world, had returned to the holy land of Vṛndāvana and from there had departed for the original abode of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual sky. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “Anyone who executes service in Vṛndāvana certainly goes back to home, back to Godhead, after giving up his body.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure was also perfect because he was chanting and hearing the holy names of God. Thus the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s passing just as He was at the celebrated passing away of Bhīṣmadeva, who said, “Despite His being equally kind to everyone, He has graciously come before me while I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor.” As Lord Kṛṣṇa came before Bhīṣmadeva, assuring him and everyone else that Bhīṣma was returning back to Godhead on leaving his body, so the Lord in His incarnation of namāvatāra, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, was present for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s life had been dedicated to spreading the holy name to every town and village, and for a month he had been surrounding himself with the holy name. For his passing away, he especially wanted to fill the room with devotees chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa fulfilled that wish. Śrīla Prabhupāda, therefore, departed under the most favorable circumstances possible-in the most sacred place, Vṛndāvana, surrounded by Vaiṣṇavas chanting the holy name.
Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta