On December 14, Baba Gurbaksh Singh, who had so silently and faithfully served as Maharaj’s personal assistant, died from failure of the pancreas or spleen. His sickness was so severe that several weeks ago the doctors didn’t give him one more day to live. Some Gobind Sadan people visited him in the hospital, and he recovered so much that the doctors took all the tubes out. Several days later he began to fail again, this time for good. Everyone remembers him with great affection and respect. Though quiet and humble, he always dressed in white, and his brilliant white aura was quite visible.
As we were still in America, Maharaj thoughtfully explained to me how the community itself performed the cremation rites. They washed Baba Gurbaksh Singh’s body with water from the Ganges, dressed it in white, placed it on a stretcher, covered it with white shawls, built a pyre of wood around it, and thus cremated him in the open, singing Kirtan Sohila, the evening hymn by Guru Nanak. Maharaj explained that it is recited not only as the evening prayer but also at death, along with a rousing song of victory that is also sung in the battlefield. Every night as we sing Kirtan Sohila, we are reminded of the transience of the life of this body:
Fixed is the day of my marriage; gather ye all and pour oil on the door step.
My friends, bless me that I may unite with my Lord.
In homes all over arrives the Courier; calls keep coming every day.
Nanak: Dwell on the One who sends the call, for the day must arrive for each of us. . . .
Life is ebbing away day and night,
O mind, call on the Guru and fulfill your destiny.
In evil thinking and doubt is this world engrossed;
Only the enlightened one is saved.