Acharya Shailaja Nadkarni describes the night at the Intensive Care Unit

Dr. Shailaja Nadkarni, a paediatric cardiologist from Orlando, met Pujya Gurudev in the early 1980s. Her vision of Pujya Gurudev and the story of her spiritual growth are delineated beautifully in this interview. As the acharya of Chinmaya Mission Orlando, she has touched the hearts of hundreds of people who have interacted with her. This interview was conducted in August 2017 in Orlando, U.S.A., by Acharya Vilasini Balakrishnan, who had also spent considerable time with Pujya Gurudev and continues to serve Chinmaya Mission West whole-heartedly.

There were two incidents. In San Diego, when I reached there, heard Gurudev was hospitalised, I told my husband I have to go and have his darshan. So I went. Many devotees were sitting in the waiting room. Guruji also came. We were all sitting with a heavy heart. Gurudev was in the intensive care unit. And I had a chance to have a darshan of him. Some of us devotees came and sat back again. That night it was decided that he is supposed to be transferred to the other hospital – Sharp hospital for further treatment. We were all talking about that. In the morning he was supposed to be taken there in an ambulance. When we were standing chanting Om Tryambakam in the corridor where the stretcher was going to come through so that we could have his last darshan while transferring him, both sides devotees were chanting. I remember a young American girl was standing next to me. She asked me, “Who is this? Is he a saint or something?” I said, “He is a great saint from India and he is being transferred from here.” She said, “You know, my mother is American, but she was right in front of him in the ICU. And she said that she went to the East, in Asia and she learnt Eastern mysticism. She is a mystic and she said that last night my mother was very ill, but before we brought her to the hospital, she told me that a great saint is going to release her from this bodily covering. And that night Gurudev was there in the ICU. Although there were little compartments, her bed was right in front of him. That night she passed away. She said he has to be the one.” So that last work also Gurudev did for that devotee.

Then he went to Sharp Hospital. We were all chanting in the waiting room, heavy-hearted, we couldn’t even talk. We somehow had some little dinner here and there and our hearts were just totally totally totally pulled down and in the meanwhile the spirits were getting pulled down. It was an experience of a lifetime.

That night somehow I got to sleep in the waiting room. Everybody had gone and I was told that I need to go and I said I will go in a little while. I sneaked out and that night about 3:30 or quarter to four, the bell rang. At that time, the phones were mounted on the walls. We did not have mobiles or cell phones. In the waiting room, I was physically tired, mentally exhausted, and so many phone calls were coming. I got the phone and said, “Hello,” and from the other side, the voice came, “This is Swami Chidananda “. I suddenly realized this was the swami I saw in Tirunelveli. He asked, “How is Swami Chinmayananda?” I told him immediately, “Swamiji, he is very critical.” He said, “Guru is never critical. Do not use that word.” That when I heard from Swami Chidananda’s mouth, it felt as if a heavy stone was lifted from my heart. My heart became like a butterfly and started dancing all around. When I realized that Gurudev is not critical, he is beyond body consciousness! What am I thinking about? Swami Chidananda said one more line, “Whoever had a glimpse of Swami Chinmayananda, had total Ishwar Darshan in their lives.” And then, at the end, he told me, “Take off your shoes and go to the third floor and bask in the presence of Brahman.” I just cannot explain what that meant to me at that time. He said, “I am coming at 10:30 to visit Swami Chinmayananda. I will be there in San Diego. Hari Om!”

After I hung up, I went to the third floor, intensive care. Gurudev was there with a male nurse. I entered the room and the nurse asked me, “Who is this person?” I said, “He is a great saint from India. Why are you asking?” He said, “We nurses, all want to take care of him. Sometimes there is an argument between us. I got this privilege tonight because this room is wafting with fragrance. Most of the patients are different in intensive care. This is a very special patient. I had this blessing.” I stood in stunned silence there with all these experiences. Gurudev looked like a Bhishma Pitamaha with all the tubes coming out of him. I realized this body is not Gurudev. I realized he is Brahman. I am under the sunshine of Brahman, feeling that warmth and glow and light, basking in it and I just felt in that silent moment tremendous moment of my life. That is the highest point of my life. And then I came down and I shared with some devotees who started trickling in. Everybody was chanting Om Namashivaya, Tryambaka japa, Mrityunjaya mantra. I had to leave early. Chidananda Swami came. There were some other experiences. Basically I want to share this experience – for all of us, not only for me, who are Gurudev’s disciples and devotees, Gurudev’s followers, who had Gurudev’s glimpses or heard his name even once, they all had total Ishwar Darshan. Not only were we basking in the presence of Brahman at that time, but we are basking in the presence of Brahman now. And I feel that continuously. He is holding my hand and guiding me through. He knows my heart, guides me through. He is my Guru. And I will say in the end that all of us are one as devotees and as one spirit we have spoken with God, we have lived with God, and we have been with God. So we can never say, “I never saw God.” Hari Om Tatsat. Jai Gurudev. Jai Jagadeeshwara.

The above snippet is from the original interview, which can be watched here in full.