My eyes opened at 2.00am today. Unable to sleep, I showered and went down to the Patrons office. When I walked in I saw the smiling portrait of Srutidharma Das. On this day, one year ago, he left the world. He invested the entirety of his being into serving everyone and everything around him. Everywhere we look, in projects, people and places, we feel his influence – physically departed, but present as ever. As with many others, he smiled on me. He told me to write, to speak, to serve selflessly, to become humble, tolerant and give one life to Krishna… he gave me a vision for my life.
At 7.30am I sat down in the temple room for the daily class. The verse for the day read: “The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot be compared even with the value of attaining the heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.” It’s one of the extremely rare verses of the Bhagavata that appear twice, verbatim (1.18.3 & 4.30.34). Not just chance, more likely a confirmation from Krishna. When extraordinary fortune arises, the saints appear in our life.
Srutidharma das – a Spiritual Giant
Though small in stature, Srutidharma Das was a spiritual giant. He built communities, mentored hundreds of individuals, delivered inspired spiritual teachings, and, in the process, sacrificed all comfort without a second thought. He held back nothing, and it was my great fortune to witness this on a day-to-day basis for nearly two decades. He never changed – his dedication, devotion and unbreakable determination were entrenched within his entire being.
Srutidharma lived with the vision of eternity. Though he never verbalised his full realisation to me, I observed how he exuded an aloofness from the world, realising he was here on a sole mission of selfless service. Everything separate from that was a waste of time. Srutidharma hardly slept, and ate even less. Always on the go, meeting the needs of the day and rising to any challenge. He was adored by so many, but never stopped to bask in that glory, convinced that aspirations for name, fame and prestige were useless disturbances… ethereal allurements.
Srutidharma accepted a heavyweight level of responsibility which invariably invited complexity, anxiety, criticism and negativity. Even the saintly are not spared. He navigated that thorny path with grace and resilience, never becoming frustrated or fatigued. There was no question of throwing in the towel. He turned up every single day on top form. “Get up, dress up, show up” he told me, “this is the most important work in the world.” He knew his business and he kept going, on and on and on.
The story doesn’t end there. Though Srutidharma’s impressive list of personal achievements is endless, he was interested in something more. Devoid of envy, he loved to see the success of others. He wanted to see everyone at their best, and spent his days encouraging, empowering, appreciating and convincing people to believe in themselves. He wasn’t just great, but he made others great. Not just that, but he trained those people to help others in the same way. Who can fathom how far his legacy will reach?
Srutidharma Das – a powerful, illustrious, global leader – was also someone you could just hang out with. His greatness never made you feel uncomfortable or insignificant. His humility effortlessly shone through. He would ask me, a spiritual infant (young enough to be his son), what to say in a speech, what managerial decision to make, what spiritual goal to set. He even asked me how to prepare for death. Obviously he knew the answers, but he came down to your level and connected with love. He was my guru, but treated me like a friend. A genius par excellence.
Dear Srutidharma Prabhu, we miss you. Life is not the same. I should be sitting here crying, but then I hear you telling me, as you did on many occasions – “Sutapa, if you don’t learn to laugh, you cry!” You taught us to laugh at the madness of the material world. “Laugh and smile” you said, “then the weight of the world becomes lighter.” So what to do… I’ll remember your legacy, try to overcome my selfishness, contribute something to this glorious mission, remembering to smile and laugh along the way. “Don’t take the illusion too seriously” you told me, “here today, gone tomorrow.” Thank you for lending us the vision of eternity. Thank you for showing us that the saints are not just people of the past.