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Terminal Restlessness The

Yamadutas at the Time of Death

Have you ever heard of terminal restlessness? Probably not, unless you are
a doctor or a nurse. But although the name is new, the condition is described
in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada says: And similarly, miserable condition of death. When
one is lying in coma, so many sufferings is going on, so many dreaming, the
Yamaduta is coming. Sometimes the man on the deathbed cries, hes so
much suffering but there is no remedy. Everyone is helpless. So that is the
miserable condition of death Srila Prabhupad, Gorakhpur Feb 18, 1971
I will tell you how I found out about it, and this story is a classic example of
the dreadful reality faced by all the suffering souls of this material world. It
also shows clearly what Srila Prabhupad has saved us from and why we
should feel eternally indebted to him.
It all started when I received a phone call from my parents saying that Dad
was sick with cancer. I believe in omens, and my right eye started twitching
profusely, so I knew that the outcome wouldnt be good. That was in the
beginning of November.
But Dad was optimistic. He was sure he could overcome everything, as he
had always been the controller in every situation and had faced many trials
in life and overcome them all. Until now he seemed to be a lucky guy,
enjoying good facilities and good karma in every respect. Little did he know
that his good karma had come to a grinding halt. If Krsna wants to save you
no one can kill you, but if Krsna wants to kill you no one can save you.
Dad had prostate cancer, and it had spread into his bones. He was having
chemotherapy, but it failed twice. I rang one day, and he literally wept. Im
dying, he said.

I felt compassion for him. He was helpless in the hands of cruel fate. I tried
to help. Well dont worry, I said. There is reincarnation. You will be okay.
Just pray. God is kind.
But it was little comfort to someone who was bewildered and didnt know
After that I felt that I was somehow connected to his suffering. I could feel
all of his fear and anxiety. I would pray all the time. I didnt want to
experience any of it, but I guess I was karmically connected to him, so there
was no escape no matter how far away I was. The physical suffering was
nothing compared to the mental torture he was experiencing. He became
humble, and I dropped everything a couple of times and flew from Vrindavan
to be with him.
In the past he had never wanted to hear anything about Krishna, so I had
given up trying years ago. We never discussed the subject. I would just feed
him prasad (he loved my cooking) and talk about other things. I had
Vrindavan dust with me and some Yamuna water mixed with Ganga. There
were also some small Jagannatha Deities. I deposited all these things in the
house, hoping they would have an effect and using them whenever possible,
in Dads food and so on.
I kept praying and hoping that somehow I could convince him about Krishna
before he died. He was so bewildered and humbled by his lack of control
over the situation that he was willing to listen to some degree. He was
clutching at straws.
I read him some Bhagavad Gita, and he said that it was comforting. I also
read to him from Coming Back. He liked that because the idea of
reincarnation was something positive to look for in the future, and he was
desperate for that. I saw in there the chapter about Ajamila and felt I should
read it to him, but thought maybe it was too much to thrust upon him.

Besides, I was there, and because I was chanting everything it would be

okay, or so I thought.

I really believed you could just chant Hare Krishna and all bad things would
go away. I guess this is a superficial and neophyte viewpoint. The material
world is such a heavy place, and with my great ego I, was overestimating
my own purity. I realized later that Im really not even a devotee. If you are
incapable of saving yourself, how can you possibly save anyone else?
I had to fly back to Vrindavan several times, as I had family and business
commitments, but the whole time I could feel him pulling me. I had zero
mental peace during this time. I think he really wanted me there and was
emotionally dependant on me, as I was the only one offering any tangible
People are basically not sympathetic either, and he needed a lot of
understanding. I am not good at handling suffering, so this was difficult to
bear seeing someone you care for suffering so much anxiety. I left my
Jagannatha Deities there and asked them to forgive any offense but to
please protect my father while I went back to India on business just for a
couple of weeks.
Then my mother rang. She was at her wits end. Please come, she said.
He is in hospital now, and we need you here. I jumped on the first flight,
and as soon as I arrived, I moved into the hospital with Dad. It was
incredible how Krishna seemed to arrange it. They gave us a private room
and let me sleep there and care for him. Nobody questioned my authority,
and my mother just backed off and let me do anything. She is a Roman
Catholic and doesnt usually allow me to speak about Krishna.
I realized that the karmis are so far into denial that they try to avoid the
reality of death as much as possible, so it was a way out for her if I took the
burden. She could go home and pretend nothing was happening, yet still
know that Dad was being taken care of by me. Or maybe deep down she
also felt desperate for his spiritual welfare, and I was the best solution they
had. Im not really sure. Once it all goes beyond their material perception

and control, they become completely bewildered. I only know that I was able
to fully take over the care of my father. Many people must suffer and die
alone in hospitals going through what I am about to tell
I slept next to Dad and tended to his every need. I managed to get Tulasi
beads on him, which one demoniac nurse kept taking off. I got mental about
it. Oh no, I thought, he is so sinful, he cant wear Tulasi. Then I just got in
this mindset that I was going to be aggressive and keep those beads on him
no matter what. She would take them off, and I would just smile sweetly and
put them right back on.
I read some Bhagavad Gita to him. He didnt eat at all for the twelve days
leading up to his death. For eight of those days he had only Ganga and
Yamuna water and nothing else. I controlled everything that went into his
mouth. I even started sprinkling Vrindavan dust in his water as well.
Toward the end, he was on another level, not of this world. He seemed to be
perceiving things that other people couldnt. For example, every night I
would put on a Shiva T-Shirt to wear to bed. There was a large picture of
Lord Shiva on the front of it. My habit was to wait till he was asleep and in a
subtle manner, sprinkle a little bit of Vrindavan dust on his head in case he
died while I was asleep.
One night I had just sprinkled the dust, and he sprang up with a wide-eyed
look of amazement. Oh, youre all surrounded by dust, he said.
Another night, in the same way, he sprang awake and looked at my Lord
Shiva shirt. Careful! he said. Theres fire coming out of your shirt. The
day before he died, he said there were big dogs in the room and an ugly
person floating outside the window.
The evening before his death he began to feel disturbed. Untie my legs, he
was saying to I dont know whom, and he was visibly distressed. My mother

and my daughter decided to stay overnight at the hospital, which they didnt
normally do. I drifted off to sleep and so did Mum.
At about 9.30 pm my daughter woke me up. Mum, she said, come
quickly! Somethings happening to Grand-dad.
I raced over to the bed and Dad was moaning. Please, please, he was
saying, I beg you, let me loose, please let me loose. His tone was humble
and terrified, and his eyes were lowered. He was to say these words many,
many times over the next six hours. He was trying to jump off the bed and
hide under his pillow. You have to understand that he was skin and bones.
He couldnt even urinate without help, and here he was suddenly trying to
get up and run off.
He was thrashing around like a mad man. This is really inauspicious, I
thought. I grabbed him by the shoulders. Dad, I said, whats happening?
You okay?
He was terrified. Oh Sue, he cried out, I tried to get away, I really did, but
they got me. His voice went up to a shout. Shes got me! he yelled out.
At that time I should have realized what was happening, but the fact that he
said, Shes got me put me off, and somehow I got covered over, and for
the next six hours I just tried to comfort him.
He cried out again and again. Oh, for Gods sake, he would shout, just let
me rest, just ten minutes. Please, I beg you. His tone of voice was terrified
and all the while humble and begging. I would chant and he would relax a
little. Then a nurse would come and distract me, and he would start again,
thrashing and begging.
Whats wrong? I asked.

He seemed exasperated. Im trying to tell you, he said, but I just cant.

Then at 3 am it suddenly dawned on me that the Yamadutas had him. It was
so obvious, and I felt so foolish for not realizing it until now. I turned to my
13-year-old daughter and told her I thought the Yamadutas had him.
Yes, she said. I know. I woke you up because I saw three of them floating
above his bed, and he was cowering and looking up.
She had actually seen them. She described later how they looked, with boarlike tusks coming upward out of their mouths and glaring eyes. She had
thought they were some kind of ghosts trying to steal his soul from his body.
Of course, by Krishnas arrangement, my mother was sleeping, oblivious the
whole time.
What to do? I thought. I started to pray to Krishna: Oh, please let him go,
Krishna. I was begging.
Then Supersoul would answer. Why? He would say. He will only offend
Then I was really upset. I started praying to Yamaraja Please, Yamaraja
And all the while, I was chanting. I told Dad I was sorry I hadnt realized
sooner that they had hold of him. He nodded, traumatized. His whole death
experience was hellish. Im sorry that any souls have to experience such a
thing and understand now why Srila Prabhupad felt such urgency to save
Dad, I said, do you want me to hold you and chant? Yes, yes, he said.
Have they still got you? No, they let me go.
Then I held him tight for the next three hours, and he slowly gave up his life,
through his mouth, peacefully with me chanting right in his ear and dripping

Ganga and Yamuna water into his mouth. I stayed fully focused on chanting
very close to his ear until he breathed his last, at 6 am. He went straight out
of his mouth and his eyes just closed.
Poor him! Cruel, cruel, hellish material world! It had been only seven months
from the start of his illness, and the seventy-one-year story of his life was
forcibly ended.
While he would be thrashing and crying out Let me loose! Id ask the
nurses what was happening.
Oh, its normal, theyd say. Hes just fighting it, and it happens to
everyone. Theres even a term for it. Its called terminal restlessness. And
they give nurses seminars about how to deal with it.
Well Ive got news for you, folks. Its actually terminal Yamadutaness. Of
course they are advised to just pump them full of morphine and ignore all
their ramblings.
Another thing is that no one is meant to know about it. It was purely
Krishnas mercy that we were able to realize it, and even then I almost
missed it. For six hours I was confused and yet Dad was telling me quite
clearly and begging for help, so some sort of maya is covering the whole
thing and people arent aware of it. Only the person who is going through it
Mention is made of the dogs. A devotee told me afterwards that they were
reading Yamaraja scriptures, which give detailed descriptions, and it is said
that the hounds of hell come ahead several days before and sniff out where
the rascals are dying.
There was also the fact that he said, Shes got me. Apparently the
Yamadutas have their own society with wives, kids and everything. Since

they are also living entities in this material world, they are born into that
I dont usually put pen to paper, as I dont feel at all qualified to do so, but
mother Radha Kunda Devi Dasi encouraged me and said that this experience
should be shared with all the devotees. So please excuse my shortcomings. I
am not very philosophical or academic. Here are some of Srila Prabhupadas
comments on the subject:
To see the Yamadutas, or the carriers of order of Yamaraja, superintendent
of death, to see face to face At the time of death, when one very sinful
man is dying, he sees the Yamaraja or the order carriers of Yamaraja. They
are very fierce looking. Sometimes the man on the deathbed becomes very
much fearful, cries, Save me, save me. Srimad Bhagavatam lecture,
Denver, July 2, 1975
But you take this mission and go everywhere, in every corner. I am thankful
to you. You are already doing that, in Europe and America, [people are]
deep asleep. Because people are sleeping under misguidance, and they are
becoming candidate for being carried away by the Yamaduta. This is the
position of the whole world, Yamaduta. Yamaduta will not excuse you,
however you may be very proud of becoming independent. This is not
possible. To save the human civilization, the rascal civilization, that There is
no life after death, and you go on enjoying as much as you like, this wrong
civilization is [a] killing civilization. So you save them. You save them.
Otherwise the Yamaduta is there. Vrindavan, September 5, 1975
This man was like this, and he must be carried to Yamaraja for
punishment Why punishment? No, to make him purified, it is said,
Punishment required. This is natures law. Just like if you have infected
some disease, the punishment is you must suffer for it. The punishment is
good. If you have infected some disease, and when you suffer, that means
you become purified from the disease. Suffering is not bad, to become

purified. Therefore when a devotee suffers, he does not take it ill. He thinks
that, I am being purified. I am being purified. Vrindavan, September 5,
So I suppose that even though Dad had Tulasi beads on, he was a good man
by ordinary standards, but he liked to hunt, and he had been a drinker,
womanizer, and cow eater. And even though he had had all facilities for the
last 28 years, he didnt surrender to Krishna. Even at the time of death, he
didnt seem able to think of Krishna as the solution to his woes.
Srila Prabhupad sums it up in the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.49: At
the time of death one is certainly bewildered because his bodily functions are
in disorder. At that time, even one who throughout his life has practiced
chanting the holy name of the Lord may not be able to chant the Hare Krsna
mantra very distinctly. Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits
of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit therefore, why should we
not chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly? If one does so, it
is quite possible that even at the time of death he will be properly able to
chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith.
Purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.15: Whatever state of being one
remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. If
one practices chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, he is naturally expected to
chant Hare Krsna when he meets with some accident. Even without such
practice, however, if one somehow or other chants the holy name of the Lord
(Hare Krsna) when he meets with an accident and dies, he will be saved
from hellish life after death. One is immediately absolved from having to
enter hellish life, even though he is sinful.
In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.7: The Yamadutas had considered
only the external situation of Ajamila. Since he was extremely sinful
throughout his life, they thought he should be taken to Yamaraja and did not
know that he had become free from the reactions of all his sins. The

Visnudutas therefore instructed that because he had chanted the four

syllables of the name Narayana at the time of his death, he was freed from
all sinful reactions.
In the same purport, Srila Prabhupada quotes the following verses: Simply
by chanting one holy name of Hari, a sinful man can counteract the reactions
to more sins than he is able to commit. Brhad-Visnu Purana
If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or
without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as
when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear. Garuda Purana
By once chanting the holy name of the Lord, which consists of the two
syllables ha-ri, one guarantees his path to liberation. Skanda Purana
I can only hope and pray that somehow my father had a small thought of
Krishna because of my feeble efforts and the causeless mercy of Guru and
Anyway, I would like the feedback of all the devotees. Do others have similar
experiences to tell? What do you all think about this topic?
Please all of you Vaishnavas pray for my father that he may have an
opportunity to serve Krishna. I was thinking myself to be the big hero, going
to save my father, only to find that Im just a big bag of hot air zero. I am
such a fallen rascal that I couldnt help him in his hour of need, and I hope
this story helps others to advance their efforts in Krishna consciousness so
that we can all help Srila Prabhupada in his mission to relieve all the
sufferings of the fallen conditioned souls.