Niranjana Swami's Visit to Mother Isa
(Posted on Dandavats) September, 2012
By Niranjana Swami
My visit to Mother Isa
About two weeks ago Syamarupa dasa, Caitya Guru dasa and I drove eighty miles south of Boston to visit my godsister, Mother Isa, in southern Massachusetts. I have spoken about Mother Isa many times in my lectures. She is an amazing devotee who would only speak about Krsna and Srila Prabhupada throughout all the time I had known her (at least thirty-five years). I was very eager to see Isa again, especially since I had not seen her since 2006, shortly after the time she had a severe stroke at age 89. The stroke took away almost all of her memory.
Before continuing with this blog, please CLICK HERE to read the Vyasa Puja homage I offered to Srila Prabhupada in 2008. After reading my homage, you will have a very good background to better help you understand all that will follow.
Shortly after Mother Isa’s stroke, I, along with several other devotees who knew Mother Isa, made several attempts to situate her in a place where she could be cared for by devotees. Unfortunately, we ran into many obstacles. Among them was a strong resistance from Isa’s only living family member, her niece, who would not permit Isa to leave the area. After many weeks of research and inquiries on Isa’s behalf, we all had to accept that Isa would have to remain where she was.
Soon thereafter we learned that Mother Isa was released from the rehabilitation hospital and was sent to a nearby assisted-living facility. I arranged for devotees to visit her from time to time and would always inquire about her whenever I visited Boston. Some time later she was put under the care of a state nursing home where she now lives.
When we arrived at the nursing home, we signed in and were then directed to a place where we could find Mother Isa. I was taken aback by her appearance, but soon remembered that she is now ninety-five years old. Time has a way changing the body’s appearance, but as I was soon to observe, it can not take away the essence of the soul’s yearning for Krsna.
I spent the first part of our meeting trying to establish some connection with Mother Isa, but was disappointed to find that she was extremely tired and for the most part was unresponsive to my attempts for a dialogue with her. After fifteen minutes or so, I went back to the nurses’ station to tell them who I was in relation to Mother Isa and to ask them if they could tell me all they knew about her current medical state. I did not expect them to be able to tell me about her state of consciousness, knowing that they would probably not understand Mother Isa’s symtoms of devotion to Krsna. Still, I explained that she seemed a lot less responsive since the last time I saw her in 2006.
I was told that mornings were not a good time for Isa and that if we wanted her to be more responsive, afternoons were always a better time to get her to speak and to hear her sing the “Krsna chant.” I immediately smiled when I heard “the Krsna chant” and was relieved to learn that she still seemed to be the same Mother Isa I always knew. I couldn’t imagine Mother Isa not chanting Hare Krsna. I returned to the visitor’s room and tried once again to establish communication with her.
This time I held out my hand, started talking to Isa about Srila Prabhupada and Krsna and then tried to induce her to respond to the mahamantra. She gripped my hand tightly, looked very intently, right into my eyes, and started to enthusiastically chant the Hare Krsna mantra together with me two words at a time. This went on for several minutes but it appeared she was too tired for a long session with us. Though I tried to get her to say something else related to Krsna, it seemed that the only words she could speak without difficulty were the Hare Krsna mahamantra. I had hoped for a lot more, but I figured that if that’s all she can remember, then what else does she really need?
After spending approximately forty-five minutes with her, we decided that it was probably best to let her rest and to just hope for a better session during another time when we could visit in the latter part of the day.
As we were leaving the nursing home, there was a vehicle for disabled persons just outside the front door. One by one, residents from the home were being carried into the vehicle in their wheelchairs. One of the nurses who worked there and who was assisting all of them saw me out of the corner of her eye. She noticed that I was dressed in robes and approached me to ask who I had come to see. I told her that I was there to see Edith Graves, which is the name Mother Isa is known by in the nursing home.
The woman immediately burst into a huge smile and exclaimed, “I knew it! When I saw your robes I knew that you must have come to see Edith! I love that woman! Everyone loves that woman! I’m so happy that someone has come to see her. You should come and see her on Friday afternoons at 2:00 PM when we are all gathered to sing patriotic songs. She leads everyone in singing the Krsna song with such enthusiasm.”
But that wasn’t all. Another elderly woman in a wheelchair was listening nearby. She extended her hand to me and introduced herself as Kay. With the most pleasant smile and a look filled with charm and respect she also started glorifying Mother Isa. “I love that woman too”, she said. “She’s a real live wire, especially when she sings that beautiful Krsna song for all of us.” She went on to express her appreciation for Isa and once again confirmed that everyone who knew Isa had nothing but feelings of affection towards her. They described her as the most self-contented person in the whole building. Then she asked, “Can you tell me how old Edith is?” I told her that she was ninety-five years old. The woman smiled again and said that she was always wondering how old she was. She then asked all of us to please come back to visit again.
I thanked both of them profusely and told them that meeting them was the icing on the cake of my visit to see Mother Isa. I was leaving Isa, feeling somewhat disappointed by her lack of responsiveness. But it was now becoming crystal clear that Mother Isa was none other than the Mother Isa I always knew— taking advantage of every opportunity which came her way to induce other’s to chant Krsna’s name. Even at the advanced age of ninety-five, and even though she had lost all memory of her past as a result of severe stroke, she was a shining light of enthusiasm for singing the “Krsna song” to everyone without reservation.
On our way back to Boston I requested Syamarupa dasa to visit Mother Isa on a Friday afternoon in order to film her chanting during the session when everyone sings songs all together. I also asked him if he could interview other workers and residents in order to hear their words of appreciation for Mother Isa. And last but not least, I asked him to establish a clear line of communication with the nursing home so that we could be kept updated if there were any major changes in Mother Isa’s state of health.
As it turned out, Syamarupa dasa was scheduled for an evening kirtan event not far from where Mother Isa resides, just three days after the day when we visited her. I gave him the video camera which Madana-mohana dasa uses for making videos of my lectures when we travel together, and asked him if he could get as much on video as he possibly could.
Unfortunately the nursing home has a strict policy which does not allow visitors to take videos of events. Syamarupa dasa was also unable to interview the residents as we had hoped. Still, he was able to take several video clips of his exchanges with Mother Isa.
Please watch the following edited version of the clips Syamarupa dasa took during his visit with Mother Isa and closely observe her. I’m amazed by her enthusiasm and especially by her spontaneity for chanting Krsna’s names. She seems to be right there, in Krsna consciousness, when she is chanting, remembering nothing else but Krsna in the form of His holy names.
I find these video clips to be precious and my admiration for Mother Isa and my gratitude for what Srila Prabhupada has given to all of us has increased without limit due to my association with her.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Mother Isa!
Editor note: see video of Mother Isa chanting Hare Krishna
ISKCON Scholar Speaks On Link Between Mental and Spiritual Health
Posted on ISKCON NEWS)
Addressing an audience of around forty, ISKCON scholar Ravindra Svarupa Dasa spoke on the connection between mental and spiritual health at the annual conference of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy on March 25th.
The conference, held at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, was a major event for clinical pastoral educators—those who train and certify chaplains in preparation for serving at mental institutions, hospitals, hospices, and prisons.
In his talk, entitled “On Continuing the Project of Anton T. Boisen’s Constructive Synthesis: A Contribution from a Vaishnava Hindu Tradition,” Ravindra Svarupa, speaking in full Vaishnava robes, discussed the impact the work of Anton Boisen, a pioneer in clinical pastoral education, had on himself and the ISKCON organization.
Boisen was a Christian minister who was diagnosed with scizhophrenia in 1920 at the age of 44, and placed in Westboro State Mental Hospital by his family. Doctors said he would never recover.
But fifteen months later, he recovered. And as he did, Boisen realized that his condition had been brought about by an extreme spiritual crisis; and that while some of the other patients at the hospital had organically-based illnesses, many suffered from conditions similar to his.
When he was released from hospital, Boisen had a new mission. He began to study the psychology of religion, and developed the thesis that a spiritual crisis can go two ways: if the outcome is successful, it’s called a religious experience. But if the individual’s condition deteriorates, it becomes known as a mental illness.
Eager to test out his ideas scientifically, Boisen became a chaplain in a mental hospital, so that he could understand and help mental patients. Eventually, he began to train future chaplains and became a pioneer in clinical pastoral education. He also wrote several books.
During his talk at the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, Ravindra Svarupa told an intrigued audience of mostly Christian ministers that in 1988, while ISKCON was going through serious struggles, he had overheard a devotee at a “Sunday Feast” program discussing Boisen’s book Exploration of the Inner World.
Ravindra searched high and low for the out-of-print volume, and finally found it at a used bookstore. “Boisen’s parish work and work with the mentally ill was based on Midwestern American Protestant Christians in the 1920s and ’30,” he says. “But the amazing thing was, despite coming from a vastly different geographical and cultural background, his book was a map of the Hare Krishna Movement’s struggles and difficulties in the 1980s.”
Not only was Boisen’s work useful in helping ISKCON’s problems, but it was also congruent with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings: Boisen thought of spiritual life as a science not dependent on historical tradition, and of human beings as being spiritual by their very nature.
Although Ravindra Svarupa was at first hesitant to use something outside the Vaishnava tradition, Boisen’s work was too good to pass up. So in 1996, he gave a month-long class on it called “The Cure of Souls in Vaishnava Communities,” at the Vaishnava Institute for Higher Education in Vrindavana, India. He followed this up with shorter versions of the same course for ISKCON devotees in Radhadesh, Belgium, and Moscow, Russia in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Finally, this year, psychiatrist Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD, who helped start the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and continues to be one of its advisors, learned of Ravindra Svarupa’s work. He invited the ISKCON scholar to speak at the organization’s annual conference.
In his talk at the conference, Ravindra Svarupa spoke on Boisen’s ideas about what is good for spiritual life, and what is not; and how these ideas corresponded with Vaishnava concepts, especially that of the three modes of material nature.
He discussed how, at the center of Boisen’s 1936 work The Exploration of the Inner World, there is a chart entitled “Personality Changes and Upheavals Arising Out of the Sense of Personal Failure.”
“According to Boisen, the central problem in spiritual health is a sense of personal failure, a common characteristic in religious organizations with high demands and ideals,” says Ravindra Svarupa. “In ISKCON, for example, the ideal is the pure devotee. In the early days, especially, we were expected to join the temple, surrender, and act like a pure devotee right away. We have what Boisen calls ‘desire for response and recognition’: we want to be accepted by personalities like Srila Prabhupada or the Six Goswamis as members of their group. And with that ideal, we look at ourselves, think wow, look at where I am, and feel like we’ve failed.”
There are different responses to this common feeling of personal failure. At the bottom, are the responses in the mode of ignorance, or what Boisen classifies as a degree of awareness known as “Oblivion.” These include withdrawal from the association of devotees or fellow spiritualists, social isolation, and surrender to all one’s lowest impulses. They end in “progressive disintegration” as Boisen calls it in his chart—essentially, mental illness.
In the middle of the chart are responses to the idea of personal failure in the mode of passion, or the degree of awareness Boisen calls “confused.”
Responses in this mode tend to come from concealment. For example, a devotee who is aspiring towards pure devotion may feel conflicting material desires, which is a perfectly natural and common experience. Yet in the “confused” mode he may still want to be known as a great devotee, and thus respond by concealing the truth.
Sometimes this reflects a problem in the institutional attitude, rather than with the individual.
“Say someone is a brand new devotee, and having normal problems with the regulative principles,” Ravindra Svarupa explains. “And he expresses that to another person, who responds, ‘Well that means you’re not a devotee.’ He’s never going to say anything again after that! He won’t talk about his real problems or issues, because he’s afraid of being condemned. That’s concealment.”
Symptoms of concealment include faultfinding, which, when it deteriorates, can turn into paranoia, a kind of mental illness.
“If you secretly feel guilty about yourself, then it’s a relief to look at everyone else as bad, too,” Ravindra Svarupa says. “To give an example from the Vaishnava text Chaitanya Charitamrita, Ramachandra Puri, a disciple of Madhavendra Puri, failed in his relationship with his guru, and so began to criticize others, saying, ‘I see that the disciples of Chaitanya eat too much.’”
Variations of faultfinding, according to Boisen, include substituting minor virtues for major ones. “You fail at the major virtue, so you elevate a small ritual as the important thing,” Ravindra Svarupa explains. “For example, ‘Oh look at all these people, every time they bow down, they let their bead bags touch the floor. That’s awful!’”
Another variation is shifting responsibility, either to other people or to organic scapegoats. For example: “The reason I don’t chant sixteen rounds a day is because there are no pure devotees in ISKCON.” Or “The reason I don’t chant is because I have this disease, or that problem.” Yet another variation is making light of accepted standards—every religion has its “Catholic priest” or its “pure devotee” jokes.
“Another result of concealment is diversion,” says Ravindra Svarupa. “For example: ‘I’m a really good kirtan singer, or fundraiser, and even though I don’t follow the regulative principles, my talent is what really counts because it inspires so many people—so I must not be as bad as I seem to myself.’ And yet another result, of course, is to lower the standards. We say things like, ‘Srila Prabhupada didn’t really mean this—what he meant was this.’”
Moving on up to the top of Boisen’s chart, we find responses to the ‘personal failure’ problem in the mode of goodness, or what Boisen calls the “clear” degree of awareness. These are the ones that are healthy and necessary for spiritual progress.
“Even advanced devotees don’t think they’re advanced,” Ravindra Svarupa says. “But there’s a healthy way to deal with it. Rather than concealment, there is what Boisen calls ‘frankness’ and what Vaishnava texts call saralata, or simplicity. Just being frank and honest about where you are with yourself and others. And with that comes genuine humility.”
Srila Prabhupada talks about this too. “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments that saralata, or simplicity, is the first qualification of a Vaishnava, whereas duplicity or cunning behavior is a great offense against the principles of devotional service,” he writes in the Antya lila of Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita. “As one advances in Krishna consciousness, one must gradually become disgusted with material attachment and thus become more and more attached to the service of the Lord. If one is not factually detached from material activities but still proclaims himself advanced in devotional service, he is cheating. No one will be happy to see such behavior.”
Going together with this is Boisen’s idea to have a dynamic, rather than a static view of morality.
“Dynamic means that anyone who is seriously trying to improve themselves is good,” Ravindra Svarupa says. “Rather than condemning others or ourselves, we look for how we can deal with the problem in productive ways, so it gradually gets better. That’s just the healthy way of doing things!”
All of these insights were greatly appreciated by the ISKCON audiences Ravindra Svarupa taught his course to, as well as the ministers attending his one-hour talk at the annual conference of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Several of them approached him afterwards, while one wanted to know how to get a copy of the books he’d mentioned, Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Sri Isopanisad.
“This group is dedicated to working with all kinds of religious traditions, and so they were hapy to see somebody from the Dharmic faiths, if you will,” Ravindra Svarupa says. “I felt very welcome, and I think that we’ll keep up a connection.”
One of the ways Ravindra hopes to do this is by working with with the College, Dr. Robert Powell, and ISKCON organizations such as Mumbai’s Bhaktivedanta Hospital to establish clinical pastoral training and education within ISKCON.
“I think it’s a big opportunity for devotees to become certified chaplains for hospitals, prisons and the like,” says Ravindra Svarupa. “And to help both ourselves and the general public, and spread Krishna consciousness in the broadest way possible—not as a sectarian faith, but as a spiritual science. We hope to also get our own hospices and hospitals in America, just like we have in India. Devotees would be happy to work in such a career, and I think it’s an excellent way for us to become more integrated with society.”
Posted on ISKCON NEWS:
HH Radhanath Maharaj's causeless mercy - anoop gets initiation
Date : March 11, 2011
Place: Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mumbai
This is a very inspiring story of a simple young devotee boy from Mumbai, who is in the verge of leaving his body at Bhaktivedanta Hospital.
Anoop Banerjee, born in 1st June 1983, is from a Bengali Family. He has lived most of his life in Jogeshwari, a western suburb in Mumbai. His family (members) are not ISKCON devotees or followers, but have a favourable disposition.
From their very old memories way back in 1989-90, When Anoop was around 5-6 years old, both the father and son shared that - he was taken to chowpatty Radha Gopianth mandir by his father. They had taken darshan of “Sri Sri Radha Gopinath” and some how went back-side of the temple, where H.H.Radhanath Maharaj’s room was there. H.H.Radhanath Maharaj was sitting in his room (that time much fairer than he is now). He saw this little boy standing far away. Maharaj called the boy, took him in his lap and gave him a Maha-chocholate wrapped in golden paper.
This incident was not taken very seriously. The family departed and went on with life. Little Anoop grew up in the normal course. When he was 22 years, he attended Juhu-temple Jagannath Rath Yatra. He became inspired and started chanting “Hare Krishna”. So from 2005 October he was chanting between 10 to 16 rounds. Devotees from Juhu temple such as Nimai Nitai Prabhu, Radha Aparajita Prabhu, Hara Prabhu, Azim Krishna Prabhu etc gave their association. He started visiting Juhu temple on Sundays. He used to work in a call centre.
In 2008, he went to Goregaon base and also had association with Jagannath Prabhu from Chowpatty. He occasionally visited Chowpatty ISKCON temple also.
Anoop was working in a call centre. In mid-2010, Anoop started developing stomach pain and upsets. In 2010 October he was detected of having “Intestinal Cancer”. It was a huge shock for him and his family. He was admitted in Nanawati Hospital. He was shuffling between hospital and home for chemotherapy treatments. Since that time, its been difficult times with lot of pain and suffering and Anoop was unable to go to Satsangs and take devotee association. As a result he almost stopped chanting. However, during the course of this treatment period Anoop obtained “Journey Home” book from some devotee and was also reading it.In February 2011, he asked his father to take him to “Bhaktivedanta Hospital” owing to its devotional atmosphere.
He was brought to the Bhaktivedanta hospital. When he met “Dr. Vinita Sharma” from palliative care he expressed his desire to become a disciple of Radhanath Maharaj. He started chanting 2 rounds a day. The same was conveyed to Ram Sharan Prabhu, who is the Executive of Spiritual Care Department. Ram Sharan Prabhu tried speaking to senior devotees to see if something can be done to connect him to Maharaj, but (Since anup was not known to any of the devotees in the temple and also Maharaj had to go to Pune the next day so it was very difficult)
Suddenly on March 08th 2010, H.H.Radhanath Maharaj on his way to Pune stopped by the hospital to see Yamuna mathaji. When he finished his meeting and came out Ramsharan Prabhu explained about this devotee. Maharaj went to his room. As anup saw maharaj he could not believe his eyes. He fell flat as a danda at the feet of maharaj. The Intravenous line was still on hand, so the saline stand was about to fall but Ramsharandas held it somehow and removed the saline bottle from it to that the tension doesn’t pull out the needle from his hand which busy grabbing the feet of maharaj. He cried for sometime then was lifted by Ramsharandas and put on the chair as he could nt get up on his own. Then Maharaj took him in his arms and pacified him.. He kept on saying to Maharaj “Please give me your mercy) Maharaj (gazed at him with compassion
Maharaj: I will comeback from pune and meet you again. (smiled)
Anup: Maharaj please give me your mercy.
Ramsharandas: (whispered in anup’s ears)This visit of his is mercy
Maharaj: (gazed at him for some time) are you asking for initiation.
Anup: (couldnot speak out of shame and shyness) Maharaj I had prayed to this Photograph of Krishna intensely that I could meet you and he has fulfilled my desire…. (mumbled) please give me your mercy.
Maharaj: Alright, I will send you beads to chant.
Anup: But Maharaj Now I am unable to chant 16 rounds. I chant 1 round or max 2 rounds daily.
Maharaj: (took his face in his hands) I initiate you right now. Your name will be Achyut Govind das.
Ramsharandas: H.G.Achyut Govind Prabhu Ki All: Jai.( Maharaj leaves)
Anup: (stultified) So will he initiate me …. What …. When…
Ramsharandas: (in ears) you fool he has already initiated you. Your new name is H.G.Achyut Govind Das(embraced him). (Anup was in a shock)
Next day Ramsharandas visited H.G.Achyut Govind Das at 11am. He was sitting on the bed his legs on the chair and his hands folded on the knees and his head on his arms chanting intensely. He was sitting in such a position to bear the pain of his stomach in order to chant attentively his eleventh round.
H.G.Achyut Govind Prabhu is now chanting 16 rounds and is in his last days in this mortal world..
H.H.Radhanath Swami Maharaj ki Jai!
ISKCON founder Aacharya Srila Prabhupad Ki Jai!!
“A moment of pure devotee’s association cannot be compared”
“Svalpam Apyasya Dharmasya … even a little bit of endeavour can save one from the most dangerous type of fear”
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Hospice Seminar Recently Presented by Sangita devi dasi
at the Bhaktivedanta Hospice in Vrindavan, India.
|Bhaktivedanta Hospice in Vrindavan, India
|| The peaceful garden with benches, trees, flowers, and Tulasi plants in the backyard of the hospice will soon have a fountain with a murti of Kaliya Krishna.
Kaulini Dasi, Board Member for Vaisnavas CARE, assisted with the well-received presentation and added many insightful comments about her own experiences caring for the terminally ill.
We thank Dr. Avnish Pandey, physician at the Bhaktivedanta Hospice, for his assistance with this 3-day presentation. Thank you to all of the participants who came from Mumbai, Bangalore, England, Russia, Brazil, and the United States. Many have now volunteered to chant bhajans and read to patients/families when they regularly visit the holy dhama of Vrindavan.
Our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Vineeta Sharma, Hospice and Palliative Care Physician at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, who contributed so much of her experiences and knowledge to our V-CARE seminar. We also had a rewarding day with Dr. Sharma as Kaulini dasi, Susan Mason, and I accompanied her on visits to home hospice patients living in surrounding villages near Vrindavana, India.
We thank Susan Mason, a long-time professional acupuncturist from Maine, U.S. who kindly agreed to share some of her wisdom with us at our seminar. In addition, Susan spent well over a month volunteering with patients at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, India as well as at the Bhaktivedanta Hospice in Vrindavan. We thank Susan for sharing her expertise and care with all of our participants at this year's hospice seminar.
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Earthquake: Update about ISKCON Japan devotees and temple
By Sanjay Krsnacandra das
Hare Krishna dear Prabhus,
Please accept our humble obeisance. All glories to Srila Prabhupad.
Thanks a lot for your kind concern.
By Krsna’s mercy all well. It was a nasty quake. Lasted few minutes.
Though Tokyo is not as bad as Sendai/Miyagi. Miyagi/Sendai near the
epicenter devastated. Tokyo shocks were about 6.
I just came to ground floor and was about to ride bicycle. I started
waving like drunkard. Could not understand what is happening. Ran away
from the building in the open area. Wife and younger daughter were
following me but got late. So they were up on 7th floor when earth
shook. Wife chanting Narasingh Prayers hard and younger one panicked &
crying. But safely got on to the ground level. Elder one was in
school. They also panicked out of school.
Elder one got a dream last night that earthquake is coming and our
building in sinking inside the earth. 7th floor becoming 2nd floor.
Our newly made Temple & Deities are fine. One deity displaced back on
the back rest but no damage. Minor cracks in temple Govinda’s
Buildings & poles were oscillating like anything. By your good wishes
not much fear in us. Lord there to take care.
Phones are difficult to connect with locals. Hence no contact with
devotees. Few whom we could contact are fine. No untoward news from
any devotee. Hopefully safe. Trains were stopped. Some started
25-30 devotees staying in the temple room temple as it is on ground
level. Few of us are awake to ensure emergency evacuation in case of
3m Tsunami in Tokyo. Few fires & damage in nearby area.
Traffic jams. People walking 20-30 kms. to reach home.
After shocks continue causing fear. People in some panic.
Sanjay Krsnacandra das
Read on Dandavats.com
Christchurch Quake Destroys Deities and Temple Beyond Repair
By Madhava Smullen, Photos by Prananatha Dasa on 22 Feb 2011
ISKCON Devotees in Christchurch, New Zealand are still in shock after
a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on February 22nd, destroying their
temple building and shattering the Deities of Nitai-Gaurachandra
beyond repair. Incredibly, no one was seriously injured.
The disaster comes on the heels of a 7.1 magnitude quake in the same
city on September 4th last year, which caused flooding and structural
damage to the temple, but left the Deities safe. Three thousand
continual aftershocks since then, including a powerful one the day
after Christmas, weakened structures further and left Christchurch
Tuesday’s earthquake, although smaller in magnitude, caused far more
damage than September’s one, as it hit significantly closer to the
main population center of Christchurch, and was at a more shallow
depth. Seventy-five people are now dead and 300 missing, with
officials saying that the death toll will almost surely climb further.
The spire of the city’s stone cathedral toppled into a central square,
multistory buildings collapsed, sidewalks and roads cracked, and
people were buried in rubble, some crushed to death.
Debris from the earthquake rests on a crushed car outside the
Christchurch Catholic Cathedral. Photo by David Wethey/AP
“At first, it seemed just like any other day,” says Sevananda Dasa, a
priest at the Christchurch ISKCON temple. “I was up on the altar,
offering the chamara whisk to the Deities. There were four other
devotees in the temple room, singing kirtan. One devotee was upstairs,
and another was in the kitchen cleaning the pots, as they had just
cooked the noon offering.”
Then, at about 12:53pm, there was a slight tremor. This wasn’t cause
for major concern in itself, since devotees had been used to
aftershocks since September.
But two seconds later, the tremors became extremely intense, shaking
the three-foot marble Deities back and forth violently.
Without thinking, Sevananda dropped his bell and chamara, ran forward,
and seized Lord Nityananda and Lord Chaitanya around the waist, one in
each arm, trying to keep them steady. But the tremors were so strong
that all three were shaken forward nearly a foot.
Then, suddenly, Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurachandra were hurled right off the
altar, taking Sevananda, who was still holding them protectively, with
The Christchurch temple room destroyed after the earthquake.
“I fell onto the marble floor with Lord Chaitanya and Lord
Nityananda,” he says. “A moment later, the wooden altar was flying
over my head, and crashing onto the floor. Everything was still
shaking. Then it stopped.”
There is strong emotion in Sevananda’s voice. “Still lying there,
dazed, I looked around, and to my right was just the torso and head of
Lord Chaitanya, and to my left the torso and head of Lord Nityananda.
It’s so distressing it’s hard to even say it, but they had completely
shattered, and there was an arm lying here, a foot there, a hand
there. In the background, I could hear a devotee wailing, just crying
out, ‘No!’ She had been chanting right next to the altar, and had seen
it all happen. It was the most devastating experience ever.”
Sevananda sustained a big gash on his arm, bruising on his shoulders,
and scrapes on his legs and arms from sharp pieces of marble or metal.
With a hospital two-minutes walk from the temple, he has received
treatment, and although he’s still feeling sore, he’s doing well.
The wooden altar, which crashed to the floor, just missing Sevananda Dasa.
Incredibly, no other devotees have received any injuries. “One devotee
who had been working in town was rushing down the street to get back
home, and saw dead bodies just lying on the street,” Sevananda says.
“So it’s amazing that no devotees were hurt at all, considering the
many deaths and serious injuries to others.”
The two-storey temple, located in the city, however, is beyond repair.
Already weakened from last September’s earthquake, whole walls have
collapsed, windows and glass doors have blown out, staircases have
been destroyed, and large cracks have appeared throughout the
structure. There are piles of rubble everywhere, the conservatory is
flattened in a mess of shattered glass, and a chimney on the side of
the temple was dislodged and crashed into the house next door,
embedding itself in its roof.
A chimney dislodged from the temple and crashed into a neighboring building.
According to Auckland temple president Kala Dasa, both the
Christchurch "temple house" -- used for accommodation -- and another
house next door have been rattled "off their foundations" and are
likely to have to be razed to the ground due to unsafety.
Devotees’ houses nearby have also sustained severe structural damage,
chimneys have fallen through roofs, and possessions—bookcases, cooking
utensils and appliances, computers—are scattered everywhere.
Sevananda says that devotees whose houses have not been damaged have
extended a hand to those who were affected, inviting them to sleep in
their lounges or on their living room floors.
Landlines are overloaded and don’t work properly, and power has been
cut off in parts of the city, leaving cell phones the only means to
contact devotees in Christchurch.
Meanwhile, the government is providing help in every way they can.
“It’s unbelievable,” Sevananada told ISKCON News the day after the
quake. “It’s like something out of a movie. There’s airforce planes
flying overhead, army trucks rolling down the road, bulldozers and
diggers everywhere. The army is distributing water, and organizing
shelter and food in an very organized way.”
While devotees were in complete shock on the day of the earthquake,
the mood is more one of practicality now.
“You just do what you gotta do,” says Sevananda. “We’ve got to get
practical now. We’ve got to find water, food, some gas for cooking.
Devotees are wondering when the electricity is going to come on, what
they’ll do at night time, things like that.”
The temple's glass conservatory smashed to pieces.
At this point, no one is looking to the future yet—there are more
immediate concerns. And although the temple is covered with insurance,
with so many earthquakes in recent times insurance companies are
reluctant to pay up, and it could be years before the temple is
“It’s not something we’re thinking about right now—there are still
tremors going on,” Sevananda says. “All of last night and this
morning, there were aftershocks. I didn’t sleep at all. Because during
every aftershock, the heartbeat rises, and you just tense up. You
don’t know if this is going to be another big one. We’ve had three so
far—we don’t know if it’s finished now, or if there are more coming.”
Destruction inside the temple.
Devotees in other parts of the country are extending their invitations
to provide shelter for the Christchurch devotees, and are doing their
best to arrange flights for them out of the stricken city, but it
“I’m trying to look for a flight out of this place, but they’re all
sold out for the next few days,” Sevananda says. “Prices even to other
cities in New Zealand are astronomical. Everyone who doesn’t have a
major reason to stay here is just getting out of this city anyway they
can. Anywhere is better than being in Christchurch right now.”
The best thing devotees around the world can do now for their
Christchurch brothers and sisters, Sevananda feels, is offer their
well-wishes, thoughts and prayers for their safety and well-being.
“The earthquake made me realize how truly insignificant we are,” he
says. “Just a little shake for a few seconds, and look how much damage
it causes. We’re at the whims of greater powers than us. And it’s at
times like these that we must remember, mare Krishna rakhe ke, rakhe
Krishna mare ke: if Krishna wants to kill us, no one can save us, but
if Krishna wants to save us, no one can kill us.”
Sri-Sri Nitai-Gaurachandra, who protected their devotees but were
themselves shattered in the earthquake.
IMPORTANT NOTICE from Prananatha Dasa: If you, or someone you know,
wishes to make a donation to the Christchurch Temple, you can, until
something official is set up, make donations via PayPal through this
account: firstname.lastname@example.org. 100% will be passed on to the Temple.
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In the US
February is Heart Month
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States
Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation's No. 1 killer. To urge Americans to join the battle against these diseases, since 1963 Congress has required the president to proclaim February "American Heart Month." The American Heart Association (AHA)—publishing partner of Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW)—led initial efforts to develop Annual American Heart Month.
Although heart disease is one of the most costly and widespread health problems in the United States, it is among the most preventable.
Each year, the AHA, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies, brings together the most up–to–date statistics on heart disease, stroke, other vascular diseases, and their risk factors and presents them in its Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update. The Statistical Update is a valuable resource for researchers, clinicians, healthcare policy makers, media professionals, the lay public, and many others who seek the best national data available on disease morbidity and mortality and the risks, quality of care, medical procedures and operations, and costs associated with the management of these diseases in a single document.
Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2011 Update
A Report From the American Heart Association
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A Visit to Life
By: HH Bhaktimarga Swami
December 21, 2010
Submitted by: New Vrindavan Communications
It is not always easy to enter a home where loved ones have been gripped by the harsh truth of impending death ready to take one of its revered family members. The doctor has said there is only a few days left to live- only a month. For someone like me who takes on a pastoral service (which goes with the territory of being a spiritual leader) or for someone who works in a hospital dealing regularly with people at the brink of passing, death is a regular feature. For some people it is standard fare. You might even think that a type of callousness can take shape.
Today I came to visit such a household whose senior member was detected with a brain tumor. The family accepted courageously the fate that came upon their mother. They showed me a good face. I was impressed with the bonding amongst the group but even more so with the spiritual shelter they had succumbed to. They were making application of the precepts taught to them.
The advantage this family had was that from birth, or by tradition the foundation was a spiritual one. The spiritual channel is always a good formula for life because it helps an individual weather the weather.
"Death is for sure." That was emphatically expressed by Vasudev, the famed father of Krishna, when speaking to Kamsa, the slayer of his sons. Now, how do we deal with this most certain of all sureties? This question we need to be prepared to answer by our actions.
When I entered the home the pervading spirit was positive even though my purpose in coming was death. The family was heroically accepting the inevitable and it showed well especially when they took to the chanting that I facilitated by the grace of Krishna. And she, with the cancer, took to it so well- with bravado.
It was a revelation once again that the use of the chanting process is the most effective means for dealing with the most difficult task.
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TIME Magazine votes on Top 10 Medical Breakthoughs in 2010
--ISKCON Potomac Congregational Member is on "Winning Team!"
Usha Sharma, PhD, MPH, at the Prevention Sciences Branch, NIAID/National Institutes of Health (NIH)-- a U.S. government agency near Washington, D.C., is a member of the study team from the Division of AIDS (DAIDS) at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH. She is also a member of the ISKCON Potomac congregation.
Dr. Sharma recently attended the ISKCON Potomac Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. Hospice Seminar held on December 11, 2010. We are very honored she attended our V-CARE seminar and for her many insightful comments throughout the presentation.
Congratulations to Dr. Sharma and her team of collegues for thier invaluable contribution in the area of AIDS research.
The TIME Magazine article follows:
AIDS Drugs Lower the Risk of HIV Infection
By Alice Park
December 9, 2010)
Antiretroviral drugs have turned the AIDS epidemic around, by thwarting the virus in HIV-positive patients. But new research suggests that this powerful treatment may have another benefit — as a weapon against infection in healthy individuals.
In a trial involving nearly 2,500 HIV-negative, but high risk, gay men in six countries, researchers found that a combination antiretroviral pill called Truvada reduced the risk of HIV infection by 44%, compared with placebo. When scientists looked more carefully at the study volunteers who took the medication most faithfully, on a daily basis, they found that the risk of contracting HIV was even lower — 73% lower than the placebo group.
Read entire article
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Scholarships Available for Physicians from developing countries for the 4th Pediatric Pain Master Class, Minneapolis, MN, USA (June 11-17, 2011)
Plus a one-week clinical practicum (June 6 - 9, 2011) with the Pain and Palliative Care team
Funded by The Foundation of Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the Children's Institute for Pain and Palliative Care (CIPPC) is offering two competitive scholarships for physicians from developing countries currently working in the field of pediatric pain and/or palliative care.
The recipients of this scholarship will be selected based on leadership abilities, commitment to moving the field of pediatric pain medicine and palliative care forward, and attending to underserved pediatric populations. The goal of this scholarship program is to identify medical professionals who are in a position to improve acute and chronic pain management for children both in their institution and beyond (region or country).
This 2-week International Scholarship includes:
· Airfare to and from Minneapolis/St. Paul.
· Hotel accommodation and meals.
· 1-week practicum with the Pain & Palliative Care Team at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (June 6-9, 2011).
· 100% course tuition for the Pediatric Pain Master Class, Minneapolis, MN, USA (June 11-17, 2011). [Visit http://www.childrensmn.org/Services/PainPalliativeCare for Master Class details]
· Ongoing mentorship.
· Physicians from a developing country who work either exclusively or largely with pediatric patients
· Applicants are currently involved in the management of children with acute and chronic/complex pain and/or in pediatric palliative care
· Preference will be given to individuals (e.g. faculty member, affiliated with a medical school, teaching hospital or large children’s hospital) who are interested in assuming or continuing a regional/national leadership role in the field of pediatric pain and/or palliative care
· Very good command of the English language (we will prefer applicants to have undertaken a practicum, rotation, or training in an English-speaking country)
· Commitment from leadership in pediatric pain and palliative care practice and education within the academic, hospital or institutional setting
All applicants will be required to submit the following materials with their application:
(A) Curriculum Vitae
(B) Personal letter outlining the need for this 2-week scholarship, including all of the following:
(1) Current and past pediatric experience
(2) Current and past involvement in pediatric pain and palliative care 􏰀
(3) How this scholarship may improve the direct care for children in acute, chronic / complex pain and/or palliative care in their institution, region and/or country
(4) Commitment to complete the Pain Master Class and 1-week practicum with the Pain & Palliative Care team at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
(5) Description of your language skills
(6) Career goals
(7) Amount of time the applicant would be able to work in the field of pediatric pain medicine & palliative care upon his/her return from this scholarship
(C) A letter from the Dean, Department Chair, or similar institutional leader indicating
(1) a commitment to the applicant and his/her career goals, institutional support for the applicant’s activities in the field of pediatric pain and palliative care.
(2) The letter needs to reflect how much time per week the applicant would be allocated to work in the field of pediatric pain & palliative care upon his/her return
(D) Three letters of recommendation from clinical peer(s), who work(s) with the applicant closely.
All applications are due on January 15, 2011. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
To apply for this scholarship or further questions, please contact:
Stacy Remke, LiCSW
Children's Institute for Pain and Palliative Care (CIPPC)
Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care & Integrative Medicine
Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
2525 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA
Phone: (+1) 612-813-6450
Fax: (+1) 612-813-6361
Course Director and Head of Scholarship Review Committee:
Stefan J. Friedrichsdorf, MD | Medical Director
Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care & Integrative Medicine
Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
2525 Chicago Ave S | Minneapolis, MN 55404
612.813.6450 phone | 612.813.6361 fax
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Successful V-CARE Seminar at ISKCON Potomac Temple
December 12, 2010
Our sincere thanks to all of the participants who attended our Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. hospice seminar presented on December 11, 2010 by Sangita Devi Dasi, RN, CHPH, at the ISKCON Potomac temple (Washington, D.C.)
A special thank you to Rasapriya Devi Dasi, for inviting us to Potomac and for making such nice arrangements. Thank you to all of the devotees, including Jahnava Devi Dasi and Rajani Pattinson, who assisted with the seminar, as well as to those who cooked a wonderful "feast" for lunch! Our gratitude to HG Anuttama Das for his kind support.
Your servants at Vaisnavas CARE
The Good Death. She Did It Her Way. At Home, With Family, Without Pain, In Comfort
From the site: Happy Healthy Long Life
Submitted by: Savitri Devi Dasi
ISKCON Philadelphia (U.S.)
December 7, 2010
In earlier times, death, like birth, was seen as a normal part of life. Babies were born at home; the sick and elderly were cared for at home; and death occurred in the bosom of one's family at home. Now, however, we live in an age of modern medicine. Medical technology has saved many lives and prolonged the lives of many others.
-From The Journey, a booklet about Hospice-
I've just returned from a ten day visit with my mother-in-law. It will surely be my last. Two days after my husband & I left she took a turn for the worse and is now in a coma. Update: My mother-in-law passed away peacefully in the middle-of-the-night on 3/19/09. I woke up at 3:33 am that night, looked at the clock & wondered if something had happened. When I put on my watch that morning it had stopped at 3:33.
Back in June, days before my mother-in-law turned 85, she got the news that she had cancer--and not the kind that one can just ignore and get on with life. Her type of cancer was fast-growing and brought with it intolerable symptoms that she just didn't want to live with.
As an active, sharp, young-for-her-years, healthy, and independent woman she decided to attack it head on. To give it her best shot. If she couldn't beat the cancer & live a "normal" life, then she wanted the end to come quickly.
Her difficult four month chemotherapy regimen shrunk the tumor enough to make it possible for her surgeon to operate, performing a complete hysterectomy. And her surgery and recuperation went without a hitch. We all held our collective breaths and congratulated each other on our good fortune. I guess we were pretty naive.
By mid-January her health took a drastic turn for the worse, resulting in a too-long hospitalization and a disappointing-hard-to-believe-depressing prognosis. She wasn't going to get better and we needed to contact hospice.
She Did It Her Way - And It's A Week We Will Always Remember
My mother-in-law is a women who knows what she wants--and she wanted to stay in her own home, no matter what. And that's exactly what she did. She hoped that she would have no pain. And for the most part, her wish has been granted. She wanted to see her friends and her family. And she did. Almost everyone.
She was in charge--surrounded by everything familiar to her. She had the around-the-clock company of an amazing caregiver who became her dear friend--and a guide through this journey.
For the last 2 weeks hospice has sent in around-the-clock nurses to attend to her every need with kindness, gentleness and dignity. They have been, for the most part, the same nurses, and she got to know them all.
Last Week's Visit
I arrived first, followed by my husband, followed by our two sons and our daughter-in-law, followed by my mother-in-law's younger sister, followed by my niece.
She slept much of the day, and I was afraid that by the time her grandchildren and her sister arrived she would be asleep throughout the day, and they wouldn't have a chance to visit.
It was almost as if Hollywood had scripted our visit. If I had seen it in a movie I would have rolled my eyes in disbelief.
As if by magic she drew deeply on energy reserves to really BE WITH everyone. She got to feel the 7 month pregnant belly of her granddaughter-in-law and her face just beamed with joy.
She got to gossip & chat about "old times" with her sister, just like they always do when they get together. They munched together on my mother-in-law's new favorite cancer food--Breyer's or Edy's All Fruit Popsicles. Her sister left for home feeling so good about the visit--comforted and satisfied in spite of her sadness.
My nephew, the Florida grandson brought over fresh-caught fish, and together with my sons they cooked up a feast for their grandma. Grilled fish and portabello mushrooms, rice pilaf and salad. They served her up a mini-sized sampler platter and wonder-of-wonders she was able to eat & enjoy it all.
The Comfort of Hands-On Care
One of our wonderful hospice nurses made sure I had a chance to read her favorite books: Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Midwife for the Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying, by Kathy Kalina
Somewhere in one of those books they talk about the healing and comfort that the family gets from attending to some of the daily care needs of their loved ones. It's not always so easy to do this when there are nurses and aides who are so skilled & seem to know better--but we were graced with nurses who had become our friends and they encouraged us to help them with my mother-in-law's care.
It felt like a gift.
My mother-in-law couldn't move much at all. She was confined to the bed and she needed to be turned every two hours---bathed, washed, medicated, changed and constantly repositioned for comfort. This was 24/7 care.
I know how difficult this around-the-clock care is, and the toll it can take on families that must take this on by themselves. You can't leave the house or even take a shower without someone to relieve you. Then add jobs & other family responsibilities into the mix... To have hospice care and a full-time caregiver was an amazing blessing.
She needed frequent sips of ice cold water--and was somehow blessed to still have her joy & pleasure for food. She only had an appetite for 2 bites--but she still relished what I call "Terminal Tapas". Lox & bagel, rugelach, hummus on Indian naan, Sweet Potato Pineapple Peanut Butter Soup, Starbuck's Expresso Chip Ice Cream, steaming hot coffee sweetened just-so, and my husband's Famous Scrambled Eggs. All only two bites or two sips!
We gave her a Mary Kay facial and applied makeup before her sister arrived. Then she was through with that sort of fussing. She wore her own nightgowns, all slit up the back for ease of dressing.
Soft instrumental music played on my computer (CD players weren't part of her world) and the room was filled with the scent of cinnamon & vanilla.
Mostly we sat by her side, held her hand, lightly rubbed her forehead and talked when she felt like talking.
I chanced to peek in while my oldest son said his final goodbye. His hand was on her forehead. When we talked later the next day I asked him if he was giving her a blessing & if he noticed the embroidered blessing that hung on her wall. Yes, to both questions.
Thanks to morphine for pain; "magic mouth wash" for esophageal discomfort; decadron for dizziness, headaches & nausea; ducolax for constipation; and ativan for anxiety she was mostly comfortable, peaceful and still alert, aware and able to be herself---not in a fog.
My dad died under a ventilator tent in the hospital ICU after a long illness of 16 years.
My father-in-law died in a hospital room a few days after a massive stroke.
My mother died in a nursing home after strokes & seizures left her in a partial comatose state for 6 months.
To be able to die in your own home, alert, awake and comfortable to "almost" the very end is a blessing for all of us. A Final Gift.
Happy Healthy Long Life: The Good Death. She Did It Her Way. At Home, With Family, Without Pain, In Comfort
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Children's Understanding of Death
November 24, 2010
Children's understanding of Death is provided by Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut Bereavement Program. This chart is meant to be used as a guideline and not a checklist. All children develop at different rates and it is important to remember that the parents know their own child the best.
Newborn to Three Years
Child's Perception: Infant/Toddler can sense when there is excitement, sadness, anxiety in the home; can sense when a significant person is missing, presence of new people
No understanding of death
Absorbs emotions of others around her/him
May show signs of irritability
May exhibit changes in eating, nursing patterns, crying, and in bowel and bladder movements
Depends on nonverbal communications; physical care, affection, reassurances
Keep normal routines and structure whenever possible
Be verbally and physically affectionate and reassuring
Provide warm, loving caretaker when parent is not available
Exhibiting healthy coping behaviors
Three to Six Years
Child's Perception: Child thinks death is reversible; temporary, like going to sleep or when a parent goes to work; believes that people who die will come back
"Magical thinking"; believes their thoughts, actions, word caused the death; or can bring deceased back; death is punishment for bad behavior
Still greatly impacted by parent's emotional state
Has difficulty handling abstract concepts such as heaven
Regressive behaviors; bed wetting, security blanket, thumb sucking, etc.
Difficulty verbalizing therefore acts out feelings
Increased aggression - more irritable, aggressive play
Will ask the same questions repeatedly in efforts to begin making sense of loss
Only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
Escapes into play
Hungers for affection and physical contact, even from strangers
Connects events that don't belong connected
May exhibit little anxiety due to belief that deceased is coming back
Keep normal routines and structure whenever possible
Provide opportunities to play, draw
Read books on death & loss with child
Help to verbalize feelings and fears
Help to identify feelings and reactions
Be honest and tell a child if you do not have an answer
Explain in specific, concrete language - not euphemisms; explain what has happened giving specific explanations about physical reality of death
Gently confront magical thinking
Make sure child does not feel responsible for the death
Be tolerant of regressive behaviors
Modeling healthy coping behaviors
Avoid clichés; "At least you have another brother", "You can always get a new pet"
Use specific, concrete words - not euphemisms; Avoid "Mommy has gone to sleep", "God has taken Grandpa"
Six to Nine Years
Child's Perception: Child begins to understand the finality of death; some do and some may not.
Sees death as a taker or spirit that comes and gets you
Fear that death is contagious and other loved ones will "catch it" and die too
Fascinated with issues of mutilation; very curious about what body looks like
Connects death with violence and may ask, "who killed him?"
3 categories of people. who die: Elderly, handicapped, klutzes
Asks concrete questions
Guilt - blames self for death
May worry how the deceased can eat, breathe, etc.
Continues to have difficulty expressing feelings verbally
Defends against feeling helpless
School phobia (especially if single parent)
Continues to have difficulty comprehending abstractions such as heaven, spirituality
Talk with child
Make sure child' does not feel responsible in any way
Identify specific fears
Provide opportunity for play, drawing, art
Normalize feelings & fears
Address distortions & perceptions
Be honest and tell a child if you do not have an answer
Help to cope with impulse control
Help them share bad dreams
Help them with positive memories of the deceased
Model healthy coping behaviors
Avoid clichés; "Don't worry, things will be O.K.", "You're such a strong boy/girl"
Use specific, concrete words - not euphemisms; Avoid "Grandma went to sleep and is now in heaven", "Grandma was very sick and the sickness made her die"
Nine to Thirteen Years
Child's Perception: Child's understanding is nearer to adult understanding of death; more aware of finality of death and impact the death has on them
Concerned with how their world will change; with the loss of the relationship, " Who will go with me to the father-daughter banquet?"
Questions have stopped
Reluctant to open up
Delayed reactions - at first seems as if nothing has happened, then grief reaction May show strong degree of affect
Beginning to develop an interest in rituals (spiritual affects of life)
Disrupted relationships with peers
Increased anger, guilt
Self conscious about their fears (of own death, remaining parents)
Encourage discussion of their concerns
Provide & encourage expressive experiences such as writing or drawing
Address impulse toward acting out and allow opportunity to identify their feelings
Allow for regressive behaviors
Be honest and tell a child when you do not have an answer
Gently relieve child from attempts to take over adult responsibilities
Model healthy coping behaviors
Avoid clichés; Avoid "You must be strong so I don't have to worry about you", "Big boy's don't cry"
Thirteen to Eighteen Years
Adolescent's Perception: Adolescent has adult understanding about death
Death is viewed as an interruption. Death is an enemy
Bodily changes emphasize growth and life. Death is a contrast
Increased vulnerability due to many other changes and losses simultaneously occurring
A sense of future becomes part of their psychology
Increased risk taking in effort to reduce anxiety or to defy fate
May intellectualize or romanticize death
May act indifferent to death of someone close as a protection against feelings
May show full range of affect or almost no affect
Wants to grieve with her/his peers not adults
May need permission to grieve
Represses sadness, feels anger, depression
Escapes; drives fast, uses drugs or alcohol sexually acts out
Denial - tries not to think about it, doesn't want to talk about it
Difficulty with long term plans
Questions religious/spiritual beliefs
Don't assume they can handle themselves and their problems without help, support
Be available, but don't push
Help them find peers who will support their feelings
Or find other trusted adults
Give permission for regression
Be honest and say when you do not have an answer
Assist in relieving adolescent of burden of adult responsibilities
Help impulse control toward reckless behavior
Discuss feelings of helplessness
Model healthy coping behaviors
Avoid clichés; "You've got to be strong to help your mother"; "You seem to be taking this so well", "Now you're the man of the house."
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Can doctors impose do not resuscitate orders? They can...
Media Watch November 22, 2010
(Editors note: This is from a Canadian news site and is recently posted for Canadian residents to take special note of. In general, it is a reminder to everyone to discuss DNR policy with medical professionals who are involved in their care or care for a loved one.)
CBC News | Patients and their families expect doctors to pull out all the stops to prolong life. Now, a growing number of physicians want the right to order a 'Do Not Resuscitate' or DNR on patients. It's part of a trend by doctors to deny treatments they consider medically futile. Medical futility is described as proposed therapy that should not be performed because available data have shown that it will not improve the patient's medical condition. It refers to the belief that in cases where there is no hope for improvement of an incapacitating condition, that no course of treatment is called for. Some experts say it's based on the Greek legend of trying to bail a well with a sieve. Doing that doesn't work no matter how hard you try.
Read entire posting at
For the first time, The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) has established Scholarships to attend the 2011 Annual Assembly in Vancouver from February 16-19, 2011
The Developing Countries Scholarship Fund was established to provide access to quality education for physicians who reside in HINARI countries (as defined by the World Health Organization) and care for seriously ill patients to attend the Annual Assembly. It provides full financial support (up to $5,000) and covers ordinary costs associated with registration, travel-related expenses (air fare, cab fare, meals), and lodging. For more info about the meeting, see http://www.aahpm.org/learn/2011annualassembly/geninfo.html
Deadline for application is November 15, 2011… use the attached application form…
AAHPM International Corresponding Membership is also available to physicians living in HINARI countries
To join AAHPM free of charge as an International Corresponding Member and receive online access to the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, and other electronic mailings, see http://www.aahpm.org/membership/default/index.html
Frank D. Ferris, MD, FAAHPM, FAACE
Director, International Programs, The Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice
Opioid Use to Relieve Pain and Suffering at End of Life Is Safe in Hospital-at-Home Setting, According to a Study in Journal of Palliative Medicine
From: Journal of Palliatve Medicine
Patients who choose to spend their last days at home with specialized care and monitoring can safely be given opioids to control pain and other symptoms without reducing survival time, according to a study published in Journal of Palliative Medicine (JPM), a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free online.
The use of high-dose opioids to relieve symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath in hospital- or hospice-based end-of-life care is proven to be effective but is available in only a few countries in the world. Many physicians around the world are afraid to prescribe opioids in sufficient doses to be effective in terminally ill patients in the home setting. Consequently, it is important that Itxaso Bengoechea, MD and colleagues from Galdakao-Usánsolo Hospital in Bizkaia, Spain, conducted a retrospective study on the safety and survival effects of increasing doses of opioids during end-of-life care at home. The study included 223 patients with terminal cancer who received specialized medical and nursing care and active monitoring in their homes.
The authors report that opioid use is both safe and effective and, in fact, patients who received a greater than two-fold increase in their initial dose had a longer median survival (22 days) than those who received lower doses (9 days). In the article entitled “Opioid Use at the End of Life and Survival in a Hospital at Home Unit,” the authors conclude that opioid use in the home setting did not have a negative effect on patient survival time.
“Many worry that use of opioids in end-of-life care tacitly hastens death. Reassuringly, the results of this study show that higher doses were safe in the home and linked to longer survival,” says Charles F. von Gunten, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Palliative Medicine and Provost, Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice.
Journal of Palliative Medicine is the Official Journal of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM), and an Official Journal of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA). JPM is a monthly, interdisciplinary journal published in print and online that reports on the clinical, educational, legal, and ethical aspects of care for seriously ill and dying patients. The Journal includes coverage of the latest developments in drug and non-drug treatments for patients with life-threatening diseases including cancer, AIDS, cardiac disease, pulmonary, neurologic, respiratory conditions, and other diseases. The Journal reports on the development of palliative care programs around the United States and the world, and on innovations in palliative care education. The complete aricle can be read online.
Download the article in PDF online here
or copy and paste this link into your address bar: http://www.liebertpub.com/products/product.aspx?pid=41
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Finding more balance in decision making at the end of life
October 17, 2010
Written by: Michael Vitez
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
Submitted by: Savitri Devi Dasi
ISKCON Philadelphia (U.S.)
Prince Pulido loved his mother. She named him Prince, after all.
And he couldn't let her go.
It didn't matter to him that nurses at Abington Memorial Hospital thought he was harming her by keeping her alive, or felt he was unrealistic - believing that stem cells could regenerate her brain.
This was his mother, she wanted to live, and she had always bounced back.
For more than a year, Maria Pulido was kept alive on a ventilator. She had respiratory failure, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes, and had both legs amputated, one after gangrene. By last winter, medical records show, she was in or near a coma - unresponsive, couldn't follow commands, would react only to pain.
Prince knew different. She smiled at him. He saw the gleam in her eye.
On May 14, the breathing tube in her throat got clogged and fell out during suctioning at a nursing home. She went without oxygen for 10 minutes and suffered brain damage. Even Prince could see her stare was blank. Still, he continued life support.
He believes in God and in miracles. He's a Philadelphia fireman who races into burning buildings. There's always hope.
Ten times between June 2009 and July 2010, Maria Pulido went by ambulance from a nursing home for ventilator-dependent patients to Abington's intensive care unit, where she spent 69 days and accumulated charges of $1.2 million.
What, if anything, should America do when families insist on continuing life support even though doctors and nurses believe it just prolongs dying?
And why, finally, on July 14, did Prince Pulido decide to let his mother die?
Path of aggressive medicine
About 2.4 million Americans die every year, an estimated 400,000 in an intensive care unit.
Most Americans don't want an ICU death, but many start down a path of aggressive medicine that takes them there. Some doctors say they themselves are partly to blame. They need to do a better job early on telling patients with chronic illnesses the risks and grim realities that likely lie ahead.
But doctors get paid to treat, to do procedures. And they don't get reimbursed to have difficult and time-consuming conversations, to deal with family members who want explanations or have objections. It's easier for doctors to say, "Go for it."
Increasingly, patients who start down that aggressive road are deciding - when hope is gone - to surrender, to focus on comfort at the very end, doctors say. Palliative care teams, meeting with families, have helped that happen.
For those who choose - or whose loved ones choose - not to surrender, they can live longer than ever these days because of care advances in the last 10 years. These therapies won't restore the brain, lungs, or liver, but they can prevent or delay the blood infection that might have killed the patient earlier.
Virtually all physicians agree with the right of patients or their loved ones to make decisions regarding care at the end of life.
But virtually all physicians also agree they have an obligation to use precious resources wisely. And all doctors pledge to do no harm.
The challenge for America, and for medicine, is to figure out a better way to balance these competing principles, to protect patient autonomy but also avoid overtreating dying patients and wasting precious resources.
The patient's life
Before she became a patient whose life story was written in medicalese - "79-year-old female with PHM of VDRF, CAD/MI/CABG, DM-2, HTN, PVD s/p right AKA 12/2008" - Maria Pulido was a person. (AKA, to translate just one abbreviation, stands for above-knee amputation.)
To Prince, 45, this was his mother, a Panama native who came to America with her husband, a jockey of some note back in the 1950s and 1960s. A feature story in the Daily Racing Form in 1969 described Maria as the first female agent, booking her husband's races.
In more recent years, she was a doting grandmother, who chose the Kensington rowhouse where Prince and his wife moved after they got married because it was only a block away and she didn't want them going too far.
A few years ago, she also began suffering from dementia. Prince's wife, Nahir Pulido, said Maria would see a fire on television and run outside in fear.
Prince is convinced that poor medical care before she got to Abington - waiting too long, for instance, in 2008 to amputate the gangrenous leg - contributed to her decline.
"She'd still be here with me," he said.
Prince's father suffered some setbacks and lost contact with the family when Prince was 16. Prince's brother died a few years ago.
He didn't want to lose his mother.
The epic struggle
When Maria Pulido first arrived at Abington, she was somewhat alert, said nurse Evelyn Yampolsky. Maria couldn't speak because of the ventilator tubes down her throat, but she could mouth words, and Yampolsky, bilingual, remembers translating for her around Halloween 2009. She also remembers grandchildren coming in to sing "Happy Birthday."
But by Christmas, nursing and physician records indicate, Maria Pulido was no longer alert.
Yampolsky and other nurses began to feel frustrated and troubled caring for her.
Nurses choose intensive care because patients' medical issues are so complex and dire, and they love helping them through these epic struggles.
But aggressively caring for patients who will never get better is a major cause of burnout for intensive care nurses, well-documented in the medical world as moral distress.
When there is no chance of recovery, aggressive medicine begins to feel like battery, an assault on the patient's dignity and the nurses' sense of humanity.
"Philosophically our career is based on the phrases 'Do no harm' and 'dignity in death,' " said Yampolsky. "These phrases are not honored in a case like this. She was not allowed to die with dignity, and we were forced to do her harm.
"I know he felt he was doing the right thing," she said. "I had these conversations with him. But I also saw he was torn and needed hope in a situation that was beyond his control. He hung on to a hope that was not there for at least a year or more."
Many nurses felt the same as Yampolsky.
"I feel like there was this span of six months when she kept coming in, having repeated hospitalizations, and there was absolutely in my mind no quality of life," said Patty Linnus, another nurse. "She was absolutely not responsive.
"That's why I say, 'Just because you can doesn't mean you do,' " Linnus said. "However, she had the best care whenever I took care of her. I would check my feelings at the door before I would go in. Whatever she needed, she got."
Prince Pulido would be the first to tell you his mother got great care at Abington. "Second to none," he said.
And he asked the nurses for their opinions.
Before May 14, he and his wife said, doctors and nurses were wrong: His mother knew exactly when he walked into that hospital room, and she squeezed his hand.
"She opened the eyes and smiled at my husband," said Nahir, Prince's wife. "I believe she was saying, 'I no surrender.' "
Gone to heaven
After May 14, even Prince's 5-year-old son, Juan Pablo, named after the pope, looked at his grandmother lying in the bed, and told his parents that Nena had gone to heaven.
Prince remembers those weeks of May and June.
"Now when I would come visit my mom, there was no more smiles. No more smiles. Just a glare at space. They told me it was irreversible. I was sad and everything, but I still had my mother.
"Some people right there and then would say, 'What about her quality of life?' But everybody must cross this bridge when they reach it. The doctor spoke to me. Palliative care spoke to me. I was hoping. I had faith that maybe it would be able to reverse itself."
He told the doctors and nurses that he had seen a show on the Spanish TV network Telemundo in which embryonic stem cells were implanted in the brain of a man in Mexico with Parkinson's disease and the new cells regenerated the brain and the Parkinson's went away.
He told them that he hoped something similar might happen to regenerate his mother's brain.
The nurses and doctors did their best to treat him with respect, and to explain to him that this was never going to be a possibility in the United States, certainly not any time soon.
Todd Groeber, the nurse manager in the Medical ICU, said Prince was no different from millions of Americans who read things on the Internet, or see things on television, and believe medicine can do almost anything, especially when they need a miracle.
At the same time, Prince insisted that if his mother's heart stopped, doctors should restart it. This involves pounding on the chest, sometimes even breaking ribs.
"One time we were coding her and we wanted him to see what we were doing," said Linnus. "And he wasn't here. That's very hard."
'It was just wrong'
Kruti Patel had just graduated from the Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York, and started working in June as a first-year resident in Abington's Medical ICU, known as the MICU.
Maria Pulido became her patient, and as a new doctor, Patel found the situation disturbing.
"I felt it was just wrong," she said. "Nothing was being gained. I felt like this person was not having justice done to her. And no justice to the system.
"We talked about it briefly with our attending at the time," Patel continued. "Like there should be a way for someone else to step in. Isn't that OK? But my attending made a good point. Where would you draw the line?"
That attending physician was William Ward, a pulmonologist whose group covers the MICU.
Ward said he had hoped there would be constructive discussion about futility and the use of resources at the end of life during the debate over U.S. health care reform. But with hysteria about death panels, there was no chance.
Ward noted that in many other countries, Maria Pulido never would have been put on a ventilator. But America has long had the resources and the will to give all patients a fighting chance at the end if they want it.
He said defining futility was so difficult. If staff thought Maria Pulido had no chance of recovery, no joy, no dignity, he's not surprised her son saw smiles and a gleam in her eyes right up until May 14. And even after May 14, he said, in her compromised state, she had value to Prince. What families see is not what doctors see, Ward said, and clinicians sometimes forget that.
In his experience, when families insist on futile care, the reason isn't that they expect a recovery, but that some other issue, unresolved, prevents a relative from letting go. Yampolsky, the nurse, said that decision-makers like Prince Pulido sometimes needed "permission" to grieve, and that it was the ICU staff's job to help them get to that point of accepting death.
Ward believes strongly in patient autonomy. At the same time, he added: "If this intervention's not going to make them better and could potentially hurt them, then most physicians are in their right to withhold those measures. I think most physicians probably don't because they're more worried about the legal climate."
A bold move in Texas
Texas has taken a bold and controversial step, one that other states are considering.
Eleven years ago, the legislature passed the Texas Advance Directives Act, signed by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
In Texas, when a doctor believes that it is inappropriate to continue life-sustaining treatment, he must notify the patient's decision-maker of the intention. After 48 hours, the doctor meets with the hospital ethics committee, and the family may present its point of view as well.
If the ethics committee agrees with the physician, it can issue a formal letter and give the decision-maker 10 days to find another hospital. On the 11th day, the doctor can withdraw life support and is legally immune to civil or criminal action.
In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and virtually every other state, there is no such immunity, so doctors typically do not intervene.
Robert L. Fine, a physician and an ethicist at Baylor University Medical Center and architect of the Texas law, believes that while imperfect, it has worked well.
The law is not invoked often, he said, precisely because it has changed the culture and dynamic in Texas at the end of life.
Families, he said, now understand they no longer have absolute say, and this encourages more conversation between doctor and family.
Opponents say the Texas law is flawed: 48 hours are not enough for a family to prepare, the 10-day period is too short to find a new hospital, and the ethics committees are too insular and likely to rubber-stamp what doctors want.
Robert Truog, professor of ethics and anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, said the ethics panel acted as "surrogate judge and jury" under Texas law, violating the American judicial system's guarantee of a "jury of peers."
Thaddeus Pope, a law professor at Widener University who follows futility issues closely, said the Texas law had become a national model in the last two years.
"Medical societies in many states are passing resolutions instructing their lobbyists to push for this, to go and draft a model bill like Texas," he said.
Pope said he hoped states copying the Texas law would replace the ethics committee with a more diverse panel from outside the hospital.
Fine, architect of the Texas law, said: "The reason to stop treatment is not because money can be better spent elsewhere. It's because you're not doing anything to truly benefit this patient."
But in the next breath, he said medicine needed to deal with this futility issue before the bean counters did.
"Look at what's best for each individual," Fine said. "If we as a profession don't start doing that, I do think the nice people in green eyeshades will just start saying, 'You've reached your limit, and that's it.' "
A crisis in the ICU
John Hansen-Flaschen, head of pulmonary and critical care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, has been doing rotations through intensive care there for 30 years, and said the problem had reached a crisis stage at his hospital.
"Our MICU situation is desperate," he said. "What we're feeling and experience is resources get increasingly committed to people who are not going to recover."
He said patients who could benefit much more from an ICU bed sometimes were forced to wait.
He said doctors must "weigh your allegiance to conflicting principles. Autonomy is a patient's uncle who wants the patient to live forever with very little benefit, leading to a use of a limited resource, the ICU. How do you balance those two, and who is authorized to make that balance? Right now we don't make that balance. The autonomy principle prevails 10 out of 10. It trumps the wise stewardship of limited resource every time."
Hansen-Flaschen said he had finished a rotation at Penn's MICU in September. "We had 20 deaths in two weeks in a 24-bed ICU, not uncommon at all," he said. Eighteen died "after decisions made to limit life support, all being made very late. Most people do come to a decision to remove life support somewhere along the way. But some never get to that point, and they're living longer than they used to."
$1.2 million hospital bill
Abington's charges for Maria Pulido's 69 days in intensive care totaled $1,218,981.
She did not have enough work history to qualify for Medicare, so her medical bills were paid by Medicaid, the government-run program for the poor, which pays hospitals the least of any insurer.
Medicaid paid Abington $78,819, just 6 percent of charges.
Just from May 14 to her death, charges were $527,241 and Medicaid payment was $32,917.
Ward and his colleagues in pulmonology had "42 encounters" with Maria Pulido in 2010. They billed $7,885, and Medicaid paid $558.
Prince Pulido said cost had never concerned him when he made decisions about his mother. If the government could bail out the car industry and Wall Street, what he called welfare for the rich, it could keep his mother alive.
But if the government or the American people would decide that he should pay, he said, "if I had to find another job and work two jobs to pay for the well-being of my mother, I woulda did it."
Some say families and patients should share a fraction of this cost, and that might alter their decisions. Others say this is unethical and unfair. The only charge to Maria Pulido for those 69 days was $180 for a bill that Medicaid didn't cover.
"Patients with chronic illness in their last two years of life account for about 32 percent of total Medicare spending," much of it due to repeated hospitalizations, according to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.
Thirty-two percent of the Medicare budget in 2010 is $162 billion.
She made the decision
Prince Pulido never gave up on his mother.
He believes she made the decision to die.
He began to see that no matter what he wanted, her body was breaking down. She was failing.
As June turned into July, her blood pressure was plunging. Her kidneys were failing. Her body was being ravaged by drug-resistant bacteria, almost inevitable among patients so vulnerable for so long.
On July 11, when Maria Pulido made her 10th and final trip to the MICU, Prince agreed for the first time to a DNR order - do not resuscitate. No more chest compressions and shocks. If the heart stopped, let her die.
Prince agreed to this after a long conversation with Stanislav Zayets, a third-year resident. They talked in the emergency room, as Maria Pulido was being admitted one last time.
Zayets said he wasn't sure what he had said that changed Prince's mind, but speculated, "Maybe because he realized that his mother had enough and maybe because I used the words 'quality of life,' looking at the poor, amputated, anoxic brain-injury patient on chronic vent with no hope of recovery."
Prince also talked several times in those last days with first-year resident Ravi Desai, and said he had found those conversations helpful.
Desai recalled that Prince had felt a strong sense of guilt about his mother, that he had left her alone in a nursing home in the spring of 2009, when he had to be in Puerto Rico, and she really deteriorated in his absence.
Desai said Prince repeated two or three times: "If I never left her, this would never have happened."
Then they worked through what Desai described as Prince's "false hopes" regarding stem cells and regenerating his mother's brain.
That took two or three conversations, Desai said.
Prince did come to accept that this stem-cell procedure will never happen in America - but not because it doesn't exist. He believes pharmaceutical companies would never allow such a treatment because of all the money they would lose on drugs that would no longer be needed.
One final sign
And there was one final sign that greatly influenced Prince's decision.
A few days before Maria's death, Nahir and Prince were driving to the hospital when a nurse called Nahir on her cell phone. The nurse said the doctor had just seen Prince leaving his mother's room, and wanted to reach him.
Prince was in the car with Nahir, and had not been to the hospital that day.
Nahir and Prince knew this was the spirit of Prince's dead brother, visiting his mother, saying goodbye.
"People talk about the spirits and say, 'Oh, it's all a lot of hogwash,' " said Prince. "It's not. I don't try to explain it to people, because they can't comprehend it, because they don't know about it."
On July 13, Nahir, who is studying to be a social worker at La Salle University and recently completed a course on grief and loss, sat with Prince at his mother's bedside.
"Prince, you can't be selfish," she told him. "God gave you your mother for a long time."
Prince looked at his mother: bloated, eyes closed for good, double-amputee, multiple organs failing. "The picture says a million words," he said. "And I went home and I prayed."
He said the Serenity Prayer - God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference - and the 23d Psalm: "The Lord is My Shepherd."
On July 14, he awoke and made his decision: "I believe there is a supreme being," Prince said. "The night before, I seen the condition she was in, and I said I couldn't be selfish any longer."
He told the staff, and they told him to take as much time with her as he wanted. Prince didn't want to be there when she died, and he left that afternoon. Once they turned off the ventilator, his mother breathed on her own for several hours. Doctors made sure to keep her comfortable with morphine and other drugs.
Kruti Patel pronounced her death about 4:30 a.m. on July 15. The hospital called Prince later that morning.
"I knew when I received the phone call," he said. "I knew my mother passed. And I was sad, but I know this: She won't have any suffering anymore."
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ISKCON Representative HG Krishna kirtan Das in the International Summit on HIV & AIDS
By: Lakshman Das
A high level summit of religious leaders was recently held at Bagaluru on 27 & 28th September 2010 to reduce the stigma on the discrimination against the people affected by HIV & AIDS. ISKCON representatives were invited and they actively participated in the summit. H.G. Krishna Kirtan Das Brahmachari (Former President of ISKCON, Bangladesh) represented the Hindu organisations from Bangladesh.
The summit was organized jointly by the Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Pith (The Art of Living) led by H.H. Shri Ravi Shankar in conjunction with the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS), HEROES, International Network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS (INERELA) and Asian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS, India (AINA-India) with the support from UNAIDS, UNICEF, USAIDS and AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Voluntary Health Services (APAC-VHS).
Nearly 500 religious leaders including the representatives from the Government and other sectors attended the meet. Among the leaders from Bangladesh, Shri H.G. Krishna Kirtan Das Brahmachari was also co-sponsored by UN AIDS of Bangladesh.
The summit will jointly delve on a specific action plan to address the problem across all states in India and a future plan of action for response of faiths in Asia-Pacific.
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Bhaktivedanta Hospice Opens in Vrindavan
By Deena Bandhu dasa
In the 1990s, a famous artist from South Africa, Arca Vigraha Devi Dasi, a
disciple of Giriraj Swami, built a house in Vrindavan to do her artwork. But
soon thereafter she discovered that she had cancer, which proved to be
terminal. Besides Maharaja, many other senior devotees, such as B. B.
Govinda Swami, Bhurijana Prabhu, Kesava Bharati das Goswami, Sivarama Swami,
and Tamal Krishna Goswami, used to visit her and give her their association
and encouragement in her last days.
Mother Arca Vigraha felt fortunate to have a house in Vrindavan where these
devotees could come and assist her, and she wanted other devotees to have
the same opportunity. So she expressed her desire to Giriraj Swami, that a
“Back-to-Godhead Clinic” be created in Vrindavan where devotees could leave
their bodies in a sublime spiritual atmosphere, supported by competent
medical care. Maharaja took this request to heart and gradually evolved the
idea of developing a hospice in Vrindavan for this purpose.
The first big challenge was to get land near the Krishna-Balaram temple. The
price of land near the temple had skyrocketed, but more affordable land
would have taken the project far away from the temple, which would not have
been ideal. Then Abhirama Prabhu mentioned to Maharaja that the ISKCON
Foundation Trust had purchased some land near the old Krishna-Balaram tree
on the Parikrama Marg to be made into a park but that somehow not much
progress had been made. So Abhirama discussed with the other donors, and
they all agreed that the land would be suitably used in service to Srila
Prabhupada's followers, provided that the hospice was built in such a way as
to preserve the trees. And so a very wonderful site was found.
Later, Giriraj Swami presented the project to Radhanath Swami and leaders of
Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Bombay, and they also jumped at the chance to
serve the Vaisnavas in this most significant way. Meanwhile, Giriraj Swami,
along with Sangita Dasi, the foremost authority in ISKCON on hospice care,
found a most excellent facility in San Diego upon which to model the
Despite many obstacles and delays, finally the hospice was becoming a
reality. Some friends suggested that besides caring for ISKCON devotees, the
team should create a facility for the local Brijbasis, and even before the
hospice was built, a temporary facility was established not far from the
temple in a rented building. Free treatment of Brijbasis began under the
name of Vrindavan Institute of Palliative Care (VIPC), and almost a thousand
patients, both in- and out-patients, were treated in the twenty-eight months
that it was running before the permanent hospice building was ready!
Finally, two days after the appearance day of Lord Balarama, who gives
spiritual strength, Bhaktivedanta Hospice was inaugurated. Finally Mother
Arca Vigraha's dream, the Back-to-Godhead Clinic, had been realized. Despite
his frail health, Giriraj Swami arrived in Vrindavan to oversee the opening.
At the ceremony, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada was present in his
beautiful deity form, sitting on an ornately carved wood vyasasana--the
first thing one sees upon entering the hospice. And the inauguration was
graced by many sannyasis and senior devotees, including Gopal Krishna
Goswami, Brahmananda Prabhu, Bhakti Brihat Bhagavata Swami, Prabodhananda
Sarasvati Swami, Abhirama Prabhu, Deena Bandhu Prabhu, Narataki Mataji (who
will be serving in the hospice), Daivishakti Mataji, and many others.
Giriraj Swami began by offering arati to Srila Prabhupada. Dr. Ajay Sankhe,
medical director of Bhaktivedanta Hospital, gave a PowerPoint presentation
describing the history and development of Bhaktivedanta Hospice,
highlighting the wonderful features of the present facility. Gopal Krishna
Goswami and others also addressed the audience.
Then Sri Padmanabha Goswami spoke. He mentioned that the land on which the
hospice was built had been considered the most beautiful in Vrindavan and
that three generations of his ancestors, who had had relations with Srila
Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, used to do bhajana
there amidst the peacocks and parrots and tamal and kadamba trees. He added
that he had even seen His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada there, chanting japa
with his disciples. And so this place was auspicious not only because it was
in Sri Vrindavan Dhama, the holiest of places, but also because it had been
blessed by the presence of so many holy men, who had chanted the holy names
there. This was truly the place for leaving this world! He also expressed
his happiness that the devotees had taken care to build the hospice in such
a way that all the trees were preserved, because that had been a condition
when he and his family, from the Radha-Ramana temple, had sold the plot to
After the talks, the senior devotees and dignitaries were taken on a tour of
the facility. Everyone marveled at how nicely everything had been made, with
many large windows overlooking the Vrindavan gardens and trees. On the
second floor they saw where the Brijbasis are being taken care of, and they
gave them their association and blessings. Then a wonderful feast was served
Abhirama Prabhu, who has been involved in resort development and management,
quipped, “This is 'The Last Resort'--when you want to get away from it all!”
In service of Srimati Vrinda Devi,
Deena Bandhu dasa
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How to Handle Family Dynamics around a Dying Loved One
By: Judith Johnson
(Judith Johnson is the author of The Wedding Ceremony Planner)
Submitted by: Savitri Devi Dasi, ISKCON Philadelphia
October 3, 2010
While there are times when the motivations of family members for asserting their particular point of view regarding the "well being" of a critically ill loved one are self-serving at best, more often the motivation is love. Yet, terrible things are done in the name of love and the dynamics of power and influence that can develop among family and loved ones can be shocking. All too often, tensions escalate as judgments and discord fester, while no one knows how to step forward and lance the family wound by talking honestly and respectfully about differences of opinion and differing styles of response to the situation. Frequently, childhood politics surface and you suddenly find yourself the seven-year-old kid who used to be bullied by her older sister.
While everyone might sincerely believe that they all have the patient's best interest in mind, they may have diametrically opposed views about what that would look like and how it is to be accomplished. Unfortunately, all too often family members polarize against each other behind the scenes rather than uniting in support of the patient.
Here are some guidelines to help families navigate these stressful and emotionally challenging times.
Respect the patient's right to make his or her own decisions as long as deemed mentally competent.
Recently, a client shared her family's drama around their terminally ill mother. Behind the scenes, some family members are under the impression that mother is depressed and needs antidepressants and have emailed her doctor urging him to prescribe them. Others are concerned about drug interactions and over-drugging mom and perhaps masking feelings that she needs the opportunity to process. When I asked what the mother wanted, my client didn't know -- no one had asked her. They were too busy campaigning for their point of view behind her back.
Be sure that the patient designates a health care proxy before being deemed mentally incompetent.
The person who is appointed as the patient's health care proxy is charged with the responsibility to make all decisions on his or her behalf regarding health care. A client told me that her father was the health care proxy for her mother. However, he was terribly uncomfortable dealing with death and dying. The choice of who to appoint should not be primarily governed by the person's rank in the family pecking order. Rather, the patient should thoughtfully decide based upon who is most able to communicate comfortably with the patient about his or her health care situation and to advocate for the patient with doctors, nurses and caregivers. If, for example, a family member holds a strong personal or religious belief that would prevent him or her from following the patient's wishes, they should not serve as health care proxy.
No matter how strong your opinion, that doesn't make you an expert.
If you are a family member with concerns about the treatment protocol and care being given to your loved one, address it either with the patient and/or the family member who is managing the patient's care. Feel free to express your point of view, but respect the right of the person who is making the decisions. Be careful not to make others wrong for not agreeing with you.
Clarify, agree upon and respect a pecking order for the flow of information and influence.
Whoever is primary caregiver and/or health care proxy should be respected as the one who has the most up-to-date knowledge about the patient's condition and needs. If you really want to demonstrate your love for the patient, than do everything you can to support this person in caring for your loved one and in keeping communications clean and above board within the family.
Avoid the temptation to judge and talk about each other behind backs. If you have a problem, address it directly with the person(s) involved.
Having a loved one who is critically ill is stressful enough. Do not make matters worse by bringing your personal animosity toward another family member into the situation.
Handle your emotional needs on your own. Don't act them out around the patient.
It is not uncommon for relatives who live at a distance to try to overcompensate for their absence and perhaps guilty feelings by playing the hero or making a larger than life impact on the situation. It is important to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about how you feel and to be, first and foremost, respectful of the patient's needs and the normal routine that has been established for the patient's care.
For example, don't take it upon yourself to feed the patient two big bowls of oatmeal because that used to be his or her favorite breakfast. Find out what the patient is eating now and stay with that. Also, consider the possibility that if you did manage to feed him or her that much oatmeal it wouldn't necessarily mean that it was a good idea. They may be fully aware of your need to feel helpful and be eating it to please you even though it will cause digestive distress later.
In most cases, an in-law should focus on supporting his or her spouse in handling the emotions, tensions and concerns regarding the situation and not try to be a major player in decision-making.
There are exceptions. For example, if an in-law is the primary caregiver and/or supervising the day-to-day care of the patient, then his or her knowledge of the patient's needs should be highly regarded and other family members who visit should seek his or her guidance and insight about what is and is not in the best interest of the patient. This is especially important if the patient is living in the home of this in-law and his or her spouse or in a nearby facility while other family members are not local to the situation.
Remember that you are writing family history through your behavior. Consider giving the patient a wonderful experience of loving, united family support.
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The Reincarnation of Shri Raghava Das Brahmachari (1954-1973)
“Regarding the auto accident, just hold a condolence meeting for Raghava das Brahmachari and pray for his soul to Krishna for giving him a good chance for advancement in Krishna Consciousness. Certainly Krishna will give him a good place to take birth where he can again begin in Krishna Consciousness activities. That is sure.”
(Srila Prabhupada in a letter to Revatinandana das – Nov. 14, 1973)
From the personal diary of Ratnavali Dasi (London)
With thanks to Mithuna Twiins Astrological Services (email@example.com) for creating this amazing article...
I have remembrance of my last past life as a brahmachary named Raghava das. This has come about through a sequence of dreams that were later found to be real of events in the life and death of Raghava, as confirmed by those that knew him. His post mortem injuries and my birth marks, scars and illnesses all correlate.
MY DIARY OF REVELATIONS
I am of Hindu descent and was born on 9th August, 1975 in London. My parents had a small shrine at our home with many photos of demigods and Lord Shri Krishna. One day I opened a drawer and there was a book written by Srila Prabhupada. I cannot remember the title, but when I looked at the back cover, I was drawn to the picture of Srila Prabhupada on it. I remember that when I looked at him, his eyes were very deep. I felt like he was asking me to come back home, come back home…
I was brutally attacked in my high school field by a drugged up man who was trespassing. He continuously beat me with a fence log with nails on it with full force on my head. I used my hands to protect my head. As he continued hitting me the pain was incredible. Even though he was striking my head and hands, I suddenly realized that he could not hit the real me which was something inside my body. I screamed for help, but no one was around. So I prayed intensely, “Please God help me, please God help me.” A voice from within started guiding me saying, “Pretend you’re dead,” so I pretended to be dead and he stop hitting me. Then the voice said “open your eyes now, he has gone,” I was scared because if he was still there, I would be killed.
Opening my eyes slowly, I was relieved to see that he was no longer there. The voice then guided me, “Now get up and go.” I was exhausted from the beating and did not want to get up. Then the voice mentioned, “What if he comes back again, this is the time for you to escape.” Immediately I got on my feet and saw that my hands and head were covered with blood. After this horrific incident, it took me some time to recover emotionally and physically, but I felt like I owed my life to this voice that saved me.
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Living Near "Green" Lowers Anxiety, Depression Rates, Study Finds
By Kristen Hallam
People living near gardens, parks and other green spaces
have lower rates of anxiety, depression and poor physical health than those
living in urban areas, Dutch researchers found.
The scientists reviewed the medical records of more than 345,000 people in the
Netherlands and calculated the percentage of green space near the patients’
homes. For those with 10 percent of green space within a 1-kilometer radius of
their homes, the prevalence of anxiety disorders was 26 out of 1,000 people,
according to the study. In a residential area that was 90 percent green, the
prevalence was 18 out of 1,000.
Better health may stem from access to fresher air and more opportunities to
relax, socialize or exercise, though more research is needed to confirm those
theories, said Jolanda Maas and colleagues at VU University Medical Center in
Amsterdam. Expanding green spaces may help prevent chronic illnesses that cost
billions of dollars to treat each year, they said.
“The role of green space in the living environment for health should not be
underestimated,” they wrote in the study published in the British Medical
Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. “Most of the diseases
which were found to be related to the percentage of green space in the living
environment are highly prevalent in society and in many countries, they are the
subject of large-scale prevention programs.”
The study also found fewer cases of depression, heart disease, back pain and
asthma among those living near green spaces. The link between green space and
health was strongest for children and people with low incomes, who are less
mobile and spend more time closer to home, the study found.
The research was funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for
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“Hladini blew my mind"
September 27, 2010
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Some devotees leave this world in surrounded by friends and family members who encourage them to chant the Holy Names. Other times, devotees go back home in seemingly horrible circumstances. But in the end the result is the same – the devotees are going back home, back to Godhead. The process of Krishna consciousness is independent of all material circumstances. Jaya Prabhupada!
Sunday, October 3, is the anniversary of the day on which Hladini devi dasi was brutally gunned down by an extra-judicial firing squad in war-torn Liberia (a country in western Africa). The death squad arrived at the Hare Krishna temple in the capital city of Monrovia in the early morning hours, and ordered the devotees to come out. Seven devotees – five men and two women – exited the temple and filed into the waiting jeep. They were driven a short distance to the Sturton Bridge, where the devotees were forced out at gunpoint and herded onto the sand next to the river. The leader announced that only the men would be killed. Thus Hladini, a woman, knew she would not be killed.
As the leader raised his weapon to fire the first execution volley, Hladini leapt forward and attacked him with her bare hands. She shouted, “How dare you kill the devotees of Krishna? Better you kill me than kill them!” Hladini was the first to be shot.
Hladini was born on January 16, 1949. Her parents gave her the name Linda Jury. Later, she received the name Hladini from her guru (teacher), His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Hladini grew up in a suburb of Detroit with her older brother and sister. She had many friends and lots of pets, including a dog named Pepperdoodle and a frog named Herbie. She spent her summers at the family’s vacation cottage. Hladini had a happy childhood.
In 1969, Hladini married Mike Ryon. Like many young people, Hladini and her husband were searching for the truth and a sense of fulfillment. Mike read different books about Zen, Taoism, and other eastern religions to find answers to their many questions. After Mike read a book entitled “The Wisdom of God” by Prabhupada, heard the devotees chanting the Hara Krishna maha-mantra, and tasted the free vegetarian food they served, he was convinced that he belonged with the devotees.
Mike and Hladini moved into the Detroit temple. At first, Hladini joined the Hare Krishna temple simply because it was what her husband had wanted. Soon, however, Hladini became convinced that the temple was the right place for her. In March 1970, she wrote to Prabhupada and asked for spiritual initiation. Prabhupada replied immediately by letter, in which he gave her the name Hladini.
In 1972, Hladini and Mike moved to New Vrindaban. Later that year, Mike left New Vrindaban permanently, while Hladini chose to stay. New Vrindaban was her home. Soon, Hladini became one of the most popular devotees in New Vrindaban.
“I moved to New Vrindaban from Zambia [in southern Africa] in 1986 with my husband and four children,” said Manasa Ganga devi dasi. “Hladini blew my mind. I had never before met anyone who was so blissful. She always had a beautiful smile on her face and she was kind and gentle with everyone, especially the children. Hladini loved the children and encouraged them.” For eighteen years, Hladini lived and served in New Vrindaban.
In December 1990, Hladini made the painful decision to leave the place that was so dear to her and travel to west Africa. The devotees there so much appreciated Hladini’s service and inspiration that she was given the honor of being the regional secretary. In this capacity, Hladini traveled from center to center, teaching and assisting the devotees in every possible way.
By the time Hladini reached Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the country was entrenched in a fratricidal civil conflict. The warlords of the seven rivaling parties were fighting for power, while there was wide-spread starvation amongst the people. Seeing the suffering of the people, the devotees of the Hare Krishna temple in Monrovia approached the warlords and arranged to start a Food for Life program.
The warlord who controlled Monrovia, Prince Johnson, agreed to the proposal and the devotees began the free food distribution program. Prince Johnson visited the temple more than once and accepted a Bhagavad-Gita As It Is from the devotees.
As the war intensified, the US government ordered all US citizens to evacuate the country. Hladini had to decide whether to stay in Monrovia or to return to safety in Nigeria. True to her nature, Hladini’s compassion and mercy for others outweighed any concern she had for her own safety. She opted to stay. She was the only senior devotee there, and her presence gave solace to the other devotees who could not leave.
On June 14, 1990, Hladini wrote in a letter to Radhanath Swami, a friend from New Vrindaban:
[T]here is never a dull moment. Now I’m stranded in Liberia in the middle of a war to overthrow the government. The airport has been seized and they asked all Americans and foreigners to leave the country immediately. American marines sent 6 battleships and 2000 marines to evacuate the citizens. I’m just going to assist the devotees through the hard times. There’s scarcity of food as all the roads are blocked and no supplies can come in. 150,000 people fled the country in the last few weeks. Every day at least 10 people get beheaded and the rebels are still 35 miles from the city . . .
Prince Johnson was killing all suspected friends and soldiers of the former president. Johnson was also known for killing his own men at a faster rate than the enemy. The warlord’s reputation for insane murder bothered some of the devotees, who therefore wrote a letter to him saying that he should stop killing people.
Johnson, who would not tolerate the slightest criticism of his actions, was angered by the letter. A well-wisher passed a message to the devotees that Johnson was likely to get rid of them. At that time, it was too late to leave the temple and take shelter elsewhere, as many of the buildings in the area were either destroyed or being controlled by Johnson’s troops. The devotees stayed at the temple and left their fate in the hands of Lord Krishna.
The death squad arrived in the early morning hours. Johnson and his men carried away by jeep the seven devotees who had been captured. Two devotees managed to escape through the back door and climb up trees to take cover.
Suddenly, they heard gun shots from the direction of the bridge. They saw that the captured devotees were being shot by Johnson’s men. At daybreak, they came down from the tree. Instead of going to the temple, they walked to the river where they saw Hladini’s sari (dress) floating on the water. Hladini, along with the five male devotees, had become a martyr of the Liberian War. Hladini was the first one shot.
“When we heard in New Vrindaban that there had been a coup in Liberia and Hladini was trapped, the whole community came together at the Palace of Gold and prayed,” remembers Manasa Ganga. “When we heard Haldini had been killed, it was a huge shock. We held a memorial service and everyone came because she was one of the most loved devotees in the community. She always had a smile on her face and she was always ready to help out.
“Nothing was ever a bother for Hladini,” said Manasa Ganga with a sad smile. “Taking care of others was always a pleasure. That’s what Hladini gave her life for – taking care of others.”
By New Vrindaban Communications (with excerpts from “Legacy of Love” by Yamuna Dasi & Malati Manjari Dasi)
HH Radhanath Swami: She was one small woman in front of about twenty men with machine guns. They opened fire and killed her. Glorious death. To her it was an offense to walk away when devotees were being harmed. That is faith. And she left behind a wonderful lesson. It is said that Krishna always protects His devotee. One may ask, “Why didn’t He protect her?” Krishna did protect her. At that time of her final exam, she had complete faith and confidence in the Supreme Lord’s mercy. She was willing to give her life to personally serve other Vaisnavas. The fact that she could maintain that consciousness, even under such unbelievably difficult circumstances, means that Krishna protected her.
“Legacy of Love” by Yamuna dasi and Malati Manjari dasi
Ksatriyas, they will never go back from fighting. That is the symptom of ksatriya. When there is fight, they will come forward first. Ksatriyas means they are very powerful, strong, and when there is fight, a ksatriya, if he is challenged by somebody that "I want to fight with you," he cannot deny. "Yes. What kind of fight you want, bows, arrows, or club, or sword?" Any way they will fight. And fight means until one is dead, the fight will go on. That is fight.
Lecture by Prabhupada on Bhagavad-gita 2.12 -- Hyderabad, December 12, 1976
[O]ne should always be prepared to give up one's life for better causes. After all, the body will be destroyed. Therefore one should sacrifice it for the glory of distributing religious principles throughout the world.
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Latest Hospice News:
Hospice Benefit Changes for Terminally Ill Children
September 10, 2010
The Hill's Healthwatch Blog reports on a letter the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent to state health officials regarding changes to hospice benefits available for children under Medicaid. As a result of Affordable Care Act passed this summer, children will be able to receive curative treatment and hospice benefits at the same time (known as concurrent care.)
In a letter to state health officials, federal Medicaid director Cindy Mann said states will be required to submit new paperwork to indicate that "hospice is provided to children concurrently with curative treatment." The new rules apply to both state Medicaid programs and Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) operating as Medicaid expansions.
States with separate CHIP programs are still free not to cover hospice services, but if they do, they must now offer curative treatment concurrently.
Prior to enactment of healthcare reform, "curative treatment of a terminal illness ceased upon election of the hospice benefit" Mann writes.
"We believe implementation of this new provision is vitally important for children and their families seeking a blended package of curative and palliative services. This provision will increase utilization of hospice services since parents and children will no longer be required to forego curative treatment."
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A Prayer for Good Health
Nearly half of all Americans say they pray for health-related reasons, and about a quarter believe they benefit from other people praying for them.
By Eric Metcalf
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Watching a parent, child, sibling, or any other loved one suffer from a serious illness or go under the knife can be frightening. Perhaps you've said a silent prayer for them before they headed into surgery or started another round of chemotherapy. In fact, many hospitals have chapels for prayer and meditation. But is there really a link between prayer and health?
Prayer and Health: Ways to Cope
You may not think of prayer as a form of alternative medicine. But many Americans rely on prayer as a method of coping with health-related issues. A 2004 study found that 43 percent of Americans prayed for their own health and about 25 percent felt they benefited from other people's prayers.
So far, scientific research has not supported the idea that prayer can improve one's health. In 2007, researchers compiling the results of previous studies on distant intercessory prayer — in essence, when people pray for you without your knowledge — found that this had no measurable effect and probably didn't warrant further study. Researchers can run into other challenges, as each person defines spirituality and prayer differently.
However, that doesn't mean that other types of prayer couldn't help when you're having health problems, says Kevin Masters, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding several studies probing how prayer is linked with health and wellness. For example, one study in New York City is examining how spirituality affects the immune system and well-being of terminally sick cancer patients.
Prayer and Health: One Family's Story
Even though Sue Ellen Braunlin, MD, and her family were caught up in a life-or-death situation, she just didn't feel like she had the right to pray for help. That was 13 years ago. Today, she recalls having been so privileged all her life that it was hard to ask for something special back then — she says she felt very undeserving.
Her newborn daughter, Marta, was born with a serious heart defect. The doctors sent the baby home, waiting to see if she'd be a suitable candidate for the surgeries needed to address the problem. Dr. Braunlin — herself an anesthesiologist in Indianapolis, Ind. — spent the next few months desperately trying to help her baby thrive, without getting the answers she wanted from the doctors.
Over the coming years, she began to ask for help through prayer. At first, she didn't find her "own prayer voice," and she got a lot of strength from other people praying for her and Marta in those early days.
Prayer and Good Health: Aid in Troubled Times
In the 1990s, social scientists might have presumed that people who prayed for health reasons would be putting their fate completely into God's hands and not taking helpful steps on their own, says Dr. Masters, who studies spirituality and health.
"That's not the assumption you'd find today, and there's a little bit of data to suggest that if people do care enough to pray, they might be more likely to go to the doctor, to get a checkup, or to take their medicine," he says. In other words, if you're going to the trouble of focusing your thoughts on improving your health, your actions may follow.
In addition, if you ask your congregation for their prayers, "you've announced that you have a need, and generally speaking, people are going to respond to that," Masters says. Beyond praying for you, congregation members may also offer you a ride to the doctor or do other helpful favors that may make you feel better.
Saying a Prayer for Good Health: Support System
Braunlin began attending services at United Church of Christ in Indianapolis after Marta's first surgery. When Marta underwent her next surgery at 18 months of age, Braunlin's pastor stayed at the hospital for six hours. As Braunlin recalls, the experience went much better.
By the time Marta required a third surgery at the age of 5, her mother realized that she had needs and a right to say what she needed. Braunlin says that even with all of the blessings in her life, praying about worrisome things felt liberating. "It made it a lot easier for me to ask my friends and family for the help I needed, and it gave me strength the third time around."
Read the entire article on EverydayHealth.com
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Submitted by New Vrindavan Communications
September 5, 2010
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am searching for tape and video recordings of my dear friend Sriman Bhakti Prema Prabhu.
Sriman Bhakti Prema passed away in Sri Vrindavan Dham on Monday the 29th of November 2004.
At the time of his departure, Sriman Bhakti Prema was only 36 years old. Raised in the UK in a pious Indian family, he came to India to take shelter of Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami. Bhakti Prema stayed in Bhubaneswar for several years and during that time he received a lot of merciful attention from HH Gour Govinda Maharaja. After Maharaja’s departure, Bhakti Prema received the mercy of HH Bhakti Svarup Damodar Maharaja and took initiation from him. Since 1996, Bhakti Prema kept the ISKCON Gadeigiri temple in Orissa as his base. There, he rendered various services as a kirtan leader, preacher, and laksmi collector for Sri Sri Radha Gopal Jiu, the beloved deities of Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami. He was a well known traveling brahmacari preacher and gave many classes in Europe and South India.
Please dear devotees, if you happen to have any recordings of my dear friend Sriman Bhakti Prema Prabhu, please
contact me on my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your help is highly appreciated.
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Srila Prabhupada Vyasapuja Offering – “I Am Next.”
Written by: HG Hari Sauri Das
September 2, 2010
Please go to the following link to read this entire heartfelt offering to Srila Prabhupada and appreciation of the departed devotees: http://www.lotusimprints.com/new/blog/2010/09/02/srila-prabhupada-vyasapuja-offering-i-am-next/
Here are some excerpts:
...Looking at a collection of videos today about early ISKCON I realized that a good portion of those joyful enthusiasts whose forms of matter, frozen brief and fleeting on film, I took as their eternal selves and whom I took to be my immutable confederates in the samkirtana of Caitanya’s lila, are now gone, retreated behind the screen of matter, unmanifest to those who remain.
Where is Padmalocan, blest of vision beyond the ordinary and with special sight, who refused a chariot of the gods, now to be seen?
Where is Vicitravirya, whose last desire was to dance and chant down the hallows of Oxford Street harinama one more time with his co-conspirators of youthful exhuberant defiance all for the love of his guru and Krsna, now residing?
Where is the zestful Rasajna, beautiful and sparkling as she strode on stage to project to thousands the images of immortality and grace from the Ramayana and Puranic lore?
Where is the Goswami, Prabhupada’s Tamal, the preaching commander, the dutiful ever-watchful secretary and watchdog of his spiritual master’s last days on earth?
Where are Upendra, Gauri, Bali Mardan, Sudama, Amekhala, Hemanga, Nirguna Krsna, Lokamangala, Sridhara Swami, Jayananda, Mulaprakriti, Samjnata, Dhami, Kusakratha, Grahila, Lohitaksa, Rudrani, Aindra and all the many others, known and unknown, whose convivial embrace of ISKCON’s creation we thought would carry us together, ever-forward, ever-lucid, ever-linked, arm-in-arm, into the indestructable clime of transcendence?
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A dying patient is not a battlefield
Submitted to VCARE
by: Savitri Devi Dasi
By Theresa Brown, Special to CNN
- Theresa Brown tells of dying patient who got much sicker from aggressive treatment
- She says "fighting" serious illnesses can cause terrible agony, keep patient from family
- Brown cites study suggesting palliative care offers better quality and longer life
- Dying patients should not be pressured to go through drastic treatments, she says
Editor's note: Theresa Brown is an oncology nurse in Pennsylvania. She is a leading contributor to The New York Times' blog Well. She is the author of "Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between."
(CNN) -- The patient, in his late 70s, had survived prostate cancer and had a new diagnosis of leukemia. A few days before, he'd been healthy and fine, but now his white blood cell count was so high that it was clogging his circulatory system, making it hard for him to breathe.
We brought his white count down and relieved his shortness of breath. At that point, he could have opted for palliative care and gone home on hospice with a decent enough quality of life to enjoy what little time he had left. However, the patient, encouraged by his family and urged on by his oncologist, chose aggressive treatment instead.
This is a hard case. In his recent New Yorker article "Letting Go," Dr. Atul Gawande explains how the first impulse of doctors, patients and family members to "fight" cancer or other serious illnesses makes it very difficult to have honest discussions of what treatment can and cannot do.
I understand why physicians find these conversations difficult, why it's preferable to focus on the good we can possibly accomplish rather than the likely futility of the struggle.
But there's another story to be told in these cases, and it's usually the nurse who's the observer of that narrative: the suffering caused by these well-intentioned treatments. Chemo was risky for this patient because of his age and medical history, and the damage done was unbelievably bad.
The problems began when cells killed by the chemotherapy spilled their contents, overloading my patient's kidneys and throwing him into renal failure. The intravenous fluids he'd needed had been too much for his circulatory system, and he developed heart failure, too.
One morning, I came in with his pills, and he said, "You're doing too much. I can't take it." The next week, he was on dialysis, but it wasn't working, and his entire lower body was hugely swollen with fluid. That day, he accosted me with, "What the hell are you doing to me?"
Both times, I told the medical team what he'd said and asked whether it was ethical to continue chemotherapy. Several members of the team shared my concerns, and as a group, we talked the situation over with the attending doctor. Our view was that the treatments were eroding the patient's quality of life with little promise of good in return.
The attending physician, whom I know to be conscientious and caring, disagreed, as did the patient's family. When the doctor prodded the patient, saying, "You want to keep going, right? Right?" the patient himself concurred, "Yes, let's keep going."
So the chemo finished. Then, blood began to appear in the patient's urine. His bladder was brittle because of the radiation treatments he'd had for prostate cancer, and because of the chemo, he had too few platelets. Without enough platelets, that fragile tissue would not stop bleeding, but it also formed blood clots in his bladder that caused excruciating pain.
Watching this patient suffer, not from his disease but because of what we did to him in the name of helping him, was agonizing. He'd wanted to "keep going," to "keep on fighting," but what did he really mean?
Always when I hear these phrases applied to oncology patients, I think of Peter Weir's 1981 film "Gallipoli." The film portrays two Australian sprinters, Archy and Frank, who enlist together during World War I and end up fighting the Turkish army at the Battle of Gallipoli.
A lot of soldiers died during the Gallipoli campaign, and the end of the film dramatizes a real battle in which four brigades of Australian soldiers were sent out of the trenches to certain death.
Frank is chosen to be a runner, a deliverer of messages during the battle, and he gets an order to call off the assault once it's clear that it's not a fight but a massacre. However, Frank can't run quickly enough to get the hold order to Archy's trench in time, and the signal to attack is given. Archy comes up out of the trench running as fast as he can, alone, chest forward, until the Turkish machine guns mow him down.
The wasteful sacrifices of war and the pointlessness of my patient's suffering share some obvious parallels here, but there's a deeper lesson as well. Archy and Frank were soldiers; my patient was not. They made a choice when they enlisted, but my patient was never given his real choice, between aggressive treatment that might do more harm than good and getting just enough treatment to keep him stable and allow him to go home to be with the people he loved.
The very real benefits of such a focus on palliative care were documented in the August 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer who received palliative care in addition to chemotherapy claimed an improved quality of life and lived more than 2½ months longer than than those who had no such care.
My patient's decision to "keep fighting" seemed to be based on a misperception of what medicine could accomplish and of what the personal costs of our treatments would be. Indeed, a month after being admitted, swollen, breathless, bleeding and in pain, with his leukemia as robust as ever, he went on hospice in the hospital and died.
In "Letting Go," Gawande says we don't want Gen. George Custer as a model in medicine but more Robert E. Lee. But I would argue that conjuring a general to guide patients faced with serious illness is an embrace of the wrong ideal. Patients are not battlegrounds, and practicing medicine is not a war. This patient needed thoughtful supportive care, not our ineffectual treatments that tore him up from the inside out as surely as any machine gun.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Theresa Brown.
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Bhaktivedanta Hospice Inauguration in Vrindavan, India -- August 26, 2010
Photos submitted by Lilavilasini devi dasi Terne, Italy
Doctors' Religious Beliefs Can Color Their Care of Terminally Ill
Survey found agnostics, atheists almost twice as likely to make choices that hasten end of life
By Alan Mozes
Submitted by: Savitri Devi Dasi
ISKCON Philadelphia (U.S.)
THURSDAY, Aug. 26, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors who are atheist or agnostic are almost twice as likely as their religious counterparts to make medical choices that can end a terminally ill patient's life more quickly, a new British study reveals.
"The religious beliefs of British doctors influence how they provide care for dying people," concludes study author Clive Seale, a professor of medical sociology at the Centre for Health Sciences in Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London.
For example, "religious doctors are less likely to report having taken decisions which they expected or partly intended to shorten patients' lives, such as withdrawing life-sustaining treatments," Seale noted. "[And] in the few times they do take such decisions, they are less likely to say they discussed this with the patient."
Seale reports the findings in the Aug. 26 online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics.
To gain insight into the issue, Seale analyzed nearly 4,000 survey responses regarding end-of-life care and religious beliefs, completed between 2007 and 2008 by working doctors residing in the United Kingdom.
Those polled included representatives from a wide range of fields, including neurologists, general practitioners, public health physicians and specialists in elder care and palliative medicine.
Each doctor was asked to reveal his or her religious background and beliefs, ethnicity, opinions regarding the use of sedation, and stance regarding the ongoing legal debate concerning assisted dying. Each was also asked to discuss their experience with the most recent patient who died while under their care.
Seale found that those doctors who focused on elder care were somewhat more likely to be Asian and to identify as Hindu or Muslim. Those in palliative care were more likely to be white, identify as Christian, and describe themselves as "religious."
General practitioners, Seale noted, did not appear to be more likely to hold strong religious beliefs in general. This finding stood in contrast to prior research that focused on the backgrounds of American general practitioners and found that as a group they were more likely to be "religious."
Although ethnicity did not seem to play a significant role in the decision-making process regarding controversial ethical issues, in general white physicians (who were the largest group) were the least likely to describe themselves as having strong religious beliefs and the most likely to support legal changes that allow for physician participation in assisted-dying scenarios.
Non-white and non-Asian physicians were more likely to stand in opposition to assisted dying, as were palliative care doctors as a whole.
Regardless of specialty, those doctors who described themselves as "very or extremely" non-religious were generally more likely to have incorporated sedation into the treatment of dying patients, and twice as likely as religious doctors to have been involved in decisions intended to hasten the end of life.
Doctors in hospital specialties were about 10 times more likely to say they had been involved in a decision that was expected to hasten the end of life than palliative care physicians were. In fact, the latter group, irrespective of religious stance, was the least likely overall to have engaged in such decisions, Seale found.
As has been observed in American research, Seale observed that very religious doctors of all ethnicities were less likely to discuss options intended to help hasten the end of life for their patients, even if the patient was capable of having such a discussion.
Seale suggested that all doctors, whether religious or not, should make a greater effort to consider how their personal perspectives might impact both doctor-patient interactions and the overall decision-making process regarding treatment.
"I believe doctors and patients need to be more aware of the part played by care providers' beliefs and values when they plan care towards the end of life," he said.
Dr. R. Sean Morrison, president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and director of the National Palliative Care Research Center, agreed that a doctor's personal perspective matters.
"Physicians have feelings," he said. "Physicians have beliefs. And those feelings and beliefs can influence some of the advice and decisions they make. But the key is not to let those feelings and beliefs guide your care, but to recognize when it's happening and how it might be in conflict with the patient's best interests."
In that regard, Morrison, who is also vice chair of research in the Brookdale department of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, noted that medical schools have begun to address this issue, to sensitize physicians to such conflicts of interest.
"It's a recent phenomenon within the last 10 years, within the growth of palliative care," he said. "But now it's one of the things we are taught, how to recognize our own feelings and beliefs and recognize when those feelings and beliefs may be controlling our actions. And recognizing how to cope with that so that the patient becomes the sole focus. And that requires training."
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The Tale of Dorothy
By Radhanath Swami
Submitted by New Vrindavan Communications
August 8, 2010
We waited. And waited. It was a sweltering summer day in the Florida panhandle. The morning sun glared through the expansive windows of an airport departure gate. There, a young blond haired lady, neatly uniformed with a blue vest over a pressed white shirt and matching blue pants, stepped up to the counter, timidly surveyed the room, then announced a one hour delay. Passengers sighed, edgy to escape from the heat and travel north. With cellular phones pressed to their ears, they persistently glanced at their wristwatches.
Among them stood a middle-aged woman. She had nicely coiffed reddish-brown hair. Her dress and demeanor hinted that she was a lady of wealth and taste. Suddenly, she flushed red, flung her boarding pass and screamed, “No! You can’t do this to me.” Her outrage jolted the assembly. Everyone stared as she stomped to the counter, stuck her finger in the face of the receptionist and shouted, “I warn you, do not anger me. Put me on that plane, at once!”
The airline hostess cowered. “But ma’am, there’s nothing I can do. The air conditioning system of the plane has broken down.”
The woman’s lips quivered. Her eyes burned and she screeched louder, “Don’t you fight with me, you stupid child. You don’t know who I am. Damn it, do something. Now! I can’t take it.” She ranted on and on.
After finishing her verbal lashing, she fumed and scanned the lounge. Her eyes landed on me sitting alone in a corner of the room in my saffron colored swami robes. She stormed toward me while everyone looked on. Now, standing almost on top of me, her face distorted with anger, she yelled, “Are you a monk?”
Oh God, I thought, why me. I really didn’t need this. After an arduous week of lectures and meetings, I just wanted to be left alone.
“Answer me,” she persisted. “Are you a monk?”
“Something like that,” I whispered. The whole room watched, no doubt delighted that I got to be the lightning rod and not them.
“Then I demand an answer,” she challenged. “Why is my flight late? Why is God doing this to me?”
“Please ma’am,” I said. “Sit down and let us talk about it.” She sat beside me. “My name is Radhanath Swami,” I said. “You can call me Swami. Please tell me what is in your heart?” I have asked this question thousands of times and never know what to expect.
She said her name was Dorothy, that she was a housewife, fifty-seven years old, and lived on the east coast. She had been living happily with her family until…then she started to weep. She pulled tissue after tissue from her purse, blew her nose, and wept some more.
“It was tragic,” she said. “All at once I lost my husband of thirty years and my three children. Now I’m alone. I can’t bear the pain.” She gripped the handle of her chair. “Then I was cheated. The bank put my house into foreclosure and kicked me out on the street. You see this handbag? That’s all that’s left.”
Looking more closely at her face, I noted that beneath the well coiffed exterior her complexion was pale, her eyebrows tense, and her lips slanted down in sadness. Dorothy went on to explain that, if all that sadness were not enough, she had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had one month left to live. In a desperate effort to save her life, she had discovered a cancer clinic in Mexico which claimed they might possibly have a cure. But she had to be admitted today. If she missed her connecting flight in Washington, D.C., her chances of survival were finished.
One of my duties is to oversee spiritual services in a hospital in India. I have ministered to victims of terrorist bombs, earthquakes, tsunamis, rape, trauma, disease, poverty and heartbreak of all sorts, but I cannot remember more anguish written on a human face than Dorothy’s. “And now this flight is late,” she said, “and there goes my last chance to live. I tried to be a good wife and mother, I go to church, I give in charity, and I never willfully hurt anyone. But now there is no one in the world who cares if I live or die. Why is God doing this to me?”
Minutes before, I had been cringing at her obnoxious behavior. How easy it is to judge people by external appearances. Understanding what was below the surface flooded my heart with sympathy. When she saw tears welling in my eyes her voice softened.
“It seems maybe you care,” she said.
What could I do? I felt too weak to do anything. Closing my eyes, I prayed to be an instrument to help her. “Dorothy, I do feel for you. You’re a special soul.”
“Special.” she huffed. “I’ve been thrown out like a worthless piece of trash and I’m going to die. But I believe you think I’m special, and I thank you for that.”
“There may not be anything you can do about what has happened,” I said, “but you can choose how you will respond to what has happened. How you react can affect the future.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can lament how cruelly the world has cheated you and spend your days cursing life, making others uncomfortable, and dying a meaningless death. Or you can go deeper inside those experiences and grow spiritually.” I remembered her comment about going to church.
“Doesn’t it say in the Bible, ‘Seek and ye shall find’ and also ‘Knock and the door will open’? Would you rather die in depression or in gratitude? You have that choice.” Her hand trembled and she grasped my forearm.
“I’m so afraid, Swami. I’m so afraid of dying. Please tell me what death is.” Her face had all but wilted. What could I do? I felt so incompetent. If only I had the power to heal her disease. But I didn’t. Still, my years of training in Bhakti had taught me that we all have the power to soothe another person’s heart by accessing the love that is within ourselves. I felt like a surgeon in an operating theater and silently offered a prayer before speaking again.
“In order to understand death,” I said, “we must first understand life. Consider this question: Who are you?”
“My name is Dorothy, I’m American…”
“Dorothy, when you were a baby, before you had been given a name, were you not already a person? If you were to show me a baby picture today, you would say, ‘That’s me.’ But your body has changed. Your mind and intellect and desires have changed. When was the last time you craved your mother’s milk? Everything about you has changed, but yet here you are. You can change your name, your nationality, your religion, and with today’s technology you can even change your sex. So what part of you does not change? Who is the witness of all these changes? That witness is you, the real you.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you are saying,” Dorothy said. “What is the real me?”
“You are the conscious person, the life force, the soul within the body, who is having the experiences of this lifetime. You see through your eyes, you taste with your tongue, smell through your nose, you think with your brain—but who are you, the person receiving all those impressions? That is the soul. The body is like a car and the soul is the driver. We should not neglect the needs of the soul. We eagerly nourish the needs of the body and mind, but if we neglect the needs of the soul we miss out on the real beauty of human life.”
“Go on,” Dorothy said.
“Animals and other non-human species react to situations according to their instincts. Lions don’t decide to become vegetarian on ethical grounds, and cows don’t become carnivores. Essentially, beings other than humans are driven to satisfy their needs of eating, sleeping, mating and defending according to the instincts of their species. A human being is entrusted with a priceless gift, which can be utilized for creating the most profound benefits or the worst disasters. That gift is free will.
“But with the blessing of free will comes a price, namely responsibility. We can choose to be a saint or a criminal or anything in between, and we are responsible for the consequences of those choices.”
“You’re talking about karma,” Dorothy said. I was surprised by her knowledge of the word. “I’ve never really understood that idea,” she said.
I explained that karma is a natural law, like gravity, which acts irrespective of whether we believe in it or not. As ye sow, says the Bible, so shall ye reap. Or as they say back in Chicago where I come from, what goes around comes around. If I cause pain to others, a corresponding pain will come back to me in due course. If I show compassion to others, good fortune will come my way. Dorothy didn’t seem encouraged, and I began to feel like I had taken the conversation in the wrong direction.
“That sounds like a justification for becoming callous and judgmental about suffering,” she said. And she was making a good point. Sadly, I had witnessed within myself as well as in others a tendency to do just that.
“Dorothy,” I said, “the devotional tradition in India teaches that karma and other mysteries are not intended to discourage us into thinking we are helpless victims of a cold and cruel universe. Rather, we should feel encouraged to take responsibility for the choices we make knowing that how we live can make a difference. For myself, I have discovered that spiritual truths lead me to the joys of compassion and devotion, starting first of all with myself. Charity begins at home. Once I can forgive myself for not being perfect, then I can begin to look upon others with similar compassion. Bhakti has taught me that we are all related, in our happiness and our distress.”
“So just what am I supposed to take away from that?” Dorothy asked. “If everything that has happened to me is my fault, my karma, I don’t see how I can avoid drowning myself in guilt.”
Dorothy was emotionally starved and I felt that meeting her was a test of my own spiritual realization. “Instead of drowning yourself in guilt, you have a precious opportunity to bathe in grace. The philosophy of karma is meant to lift us up and encourage us to make the right choices in both joy and suffering. Depression impedes our progress. In whatever situation we find ourselves we have the opportunity to transform how we see that situation. Devotional life doesn’t make every crisis disappear, but it can help us to see crises with new eyes, and often that deeper vision leads to a more content frame of mind. I’ve been practicing that for many years, and I know it has helped me to see the hand of God in all things…”
“Swami, don’t give me any religious dogma. I had enough of that as a kid. In church they taught us that the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell. The last thing I need is more of that. Tell me what is really in your heart.”
She was doing a good job getting me to explain things that can’t be physically seen such as the soul, the law of karma, and reincarnation.
“Tragedies in this life can sometimes be attributed to things done in previous lives. Because the soul is eternal, we carry those consequences from this life to the next.” That really got Dorothy angry.
“It shouldn’t matter what we did in some other life. Why should we believe that God is merciful when we see in this life that good people suffer and wicked people prosper?”
“Years ago,” I said, “an old recluse in the Himalayas shared with me an interesting analogy. It is quite simple but it sheds some light on the subject.” Mentioning that I had spent time in the Himalayas must have captured her fancy because for the first time I noted the trace of a smile on Dorothy’s lips.
“The yogi gave the analogy of a farmer who puts excellent grains into his silo but then adds rotten grains on top. The silo empties out from the bottom, so when the farmer goes to sell his grains the healthy grains come out first and for a while he wallows in prosperity. But with time his prosperity will end and poverty awaits him.
“Then the yogi gave the analogy of another farmer who fills his silo with rotten grains. Eventually he learns to do better and begins pouring only fresh wholesome grains into the silo. He may be presently suffering from his past deposits, but a glorious future awaits him.
“We humans create our own destiny. We are free to make choices. But once we act, we are bound to the karmic consequences of what we have done. You may choose to get on an airplane to Washington, D.C., but once the plane takes off you have no choice about where you’re going to arrive…”
Suddenly, the voice of the airline hostess came through the speakers announcing a further delay of another hour. Dorothy whimpered. I gave her a sympathetic smile.
“Here is that choice again, either to focus on the miseries of our fate or transform how we see our fate. Most of us have a huge mixture of karmic seeds of fate waiting to sprout. But the most important teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is that we are eternal souls, transcendental to all karmic reactions. That’s a very reassuring thing to know. Even in the midst of great distress, people who live with awareness of their eternal nature can be happy. The Bible tells us that the kingdom of God is within. True happiness is an experience of the heart.
What is it the heart longs for?”
Dorothy’s sad eyes searched mine. “My heart aches for love,” she said.
“We all do,” I said. “Our need to love and be loved originates in our innate love for God.” I quoted words that Mother Theresa from Calcutta had spoken to me years before. “The greatest problem in this world is not the hunger of the stomach but the hunger of the heart. All over the world both rich and poor suffer. They are lonely, starving for love. Only God’s love can satisfy the hunger of the heart.”
“You’re a Hindu and I’m a Christian,” Dorothy said. “Which God are you talking about?”
I looked out the window at a blazing summer sun. “In America it is called the sun, in Mexico, sol and in India, surya. But is it an American sun or a Mexican sun? The essence of all religions is one, to love God—whatever name we may have for God—and live as an instrument of that love. To transform arrogance into humility, greed into benevolence, envy into gratitude, vengeance into forgiveness, selfishness into servitude, complacency into compassion, doubt into faith, and lust into love. The character of love is universal to all spiritual paths.”
Dorothy really didn’t look like any of this was reaching her.
“Someone told me,” she blurted, “that the reason I’m suffering is that God wants to experience the world’s suffering through me. What kind of a God is that?”
“People have been inventing ideas about God for a long time,” I replied. “In the Bhakti tradition we have three checks and balances for true knowledge of God: guru, sadhu, and shastra. Guru means spiritual teacher. Sadhu means holy people. And shastra means scriptures, wisdom revealed by God. Throughout history different scriptures have been given according to time, place and the nature of the people for whom the teachings were intended. The ritual parts may differ, but the essence of true scriptures is always the same. However, because people tend to invent meanings, followers of Bhakti receive their understanding of scripture from a guru or teacher coming in an authorized succession of teachers. The Bhakti lineage traces its origin back before recorded history, a succession of realized souls who have preserved the original spirit of the teachings throughout the generations. The company of sadhus is important because with people who are also on the path to God we can share our understanding and realizations…”
Dorothy was not convinced. “What do your Bhakti teachers tell you about why God gave us free will when it makes so many people suffer?”
“In order for there to be love,” I said, “there must be free will. You can force people to obey but not to love. Without that freedom there would be little meaning to love. When we choose to turn away from God, we enter the material world and forget our original loving nature. We become covered by a cloud that camouflages the real nature of things.”
“Like a veil?” she asked.
“Yes, like a veil.”
“Well, I think I’m wearing many veils.”
“We all are. The veil is called maya, illusion, in which we forget our true identity and wander birth after birth chasing superficial pleasures. The real substance of happiness is within our own hearts. Please understand, your situation is an opportunity…”
Dorothy moaned. “How is suffering an opportunity?
“May I tell you the story of a famous lady saint?”
“Her name was Queen Kunti a most pious and devoted lady. She underwent unbearable miseries. Her husband died when she was very young. As a widow she raised five small children. The eldest was meant to inherit the throne when he came of age. Because her children were so popular for their virtue and skills, a rival burned with envy. That wicked man seized the crown and ruled. All of Kunti’s property was usurped and her children were banished. They faced repeated assassination attempts and constant persecution. In the end, her persecutors were brought to justice and her eldest son was enthroned. At that time she prayed to Lord Krishna, ‘In those calamities I had no one to turn to but You. In that condition I had no other shelter but to call your name, and calling out to You meant I was remembering You at every moment. Thank you, my Lord, for my suffering was also the source of my greatest happiness.’
I mentioned the work of a famous doctor, who said that sometimes patients come to him to say that having a heart attack was the best thing that ever happened. How is that? Because it took a crisis to get them to rethink their appreciation for life, their habits, their priorities, and see the blessings that they had always undervalued. That seemed to register with Dorothy.
“Bhakti doesn’t necessarily make our material situation go away,” I said, “but at the very least it gives us something more than our bitterness to focus on. And more important, when we open up to the possibility of some explanation other than cruel fate, we just may find that there is a loving Supreme Being looking out for us. In your present condition, Dorothy, you can turn to God like practically no one else can do.”
She closed her eyes she asked, “In your tradition, do you have a meditation to help us turn to God?”
“There are many forms of meditation,” I told her. “I have been given one that has, since ancient times, been practiced for awakening the dormant love of the soul. May I teach you?”
“This is a mantra. In the Sanskrit language, man means the mind and tra means to liberate. The mind is compared to a mirror. For more births than we can count, we have allowed dust to cover the mirror of the mind—dust in the form endless misconceptions, desires and fears. In that state all we see is the dust, and so that is what we identify with. The chanting of this mantra is a process for cleaning the mirror of the mind and bringing it back to its natural clarity where we can see who we really are, a pure soul, a part of God, eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. As the mind becomes cleaner the divine qualities of the self emerge while ignorance and all of its cohorts fade away. As we approach that state, we can experience the inherent love of God within us. As love of God awakens, unconditional love for every living being manifests spontaneously. We realize that everyone is our sister or brother and a part of our beloved Lord.”
The speaker system crackled and everyone in the room perked up, staring at the airline hostess almost like prisoners would look at a parole board, yearning to be released.
“I’m sorry,” she announced, “but they haven’t yet fixed the air conditioner, and there will be another hour delay.”
Dorothy slapped her forehead, “Swami, teach me the mantra.”
“Please repeat each word after me,” I requested. “Hare… Krishna… Hare… Krishna… Krishna… Krishna… Hare… Hare… Hare… Rama… Hare… Rama… Rama… Rama… Hare… Hare…”
Dorothy shook her head and shooed me with her hand, “I’ll never remember that.”
“Would you like me to write it down for you?”
She reached into her purse and pulled out a slip of paper and a pen. “Yes, but it doesn’t interest me unless I know what it means.”
After writing it, I explained that these were names of the one God. Krishna means the all-attractive, Rama means the reservoir of all pleasure, and Hare is the name of the female, compassionate aspect of God.
Dorothy took the paper and immersed herself in chanting the mantra over and over. I borrowed her cellular phone and walked away to call a friend with news of the indefinite delay.
When I returned and sat beside her, Dorothy had closed her eyes. She was leaning back and taking deep breaths. She looked at me and asked, “Where do you live?”
“I travel a lot, but much of my time is spent in Mumbai, India.”
“How many people attend your lectures in Mumbai?”
“On Sundays, maybe two thousand. During pilgrimages it’s closer to four thousand.”
“Where are you going now?”
“To a temple in Hartford, Connecticut. But like you I missed my connecting flight, so I’ll probably miss giving the lecture.”
“Do you go there regularly?”
“I’ve been invited for several years, but this is my first opportunity to visit them.”
“How many people are waiting for you?”
“I think about a hundred.”
Again she took a deep breath. Then, as if purging anguish through her breathing she released the words, “Now I understand.” To my surprise, her lips stretched out across her face into a blissful smile and her eyes twinkled like a child.
“The flight delay was my good fortune,” she said. “I bet thousands of people would give anything to sit with you for even a few minutes. I have you all to myself—and for hours!”
I have to admit, I teared up. “The delay is my good fortune,” I said. “There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be than here with you, right now. You are a special soul.”
Dorothy wiped a tear from her cheek. “Yes, now I understand. This is a blessing of the Lord.” I moved to another seat to give her some private space. Of course, I really needed it, too.
Finally, after six hours of delays, came the announcement everyone was waiting for. The same young lady in the blue uniform announced, “The flight is now ready to board. Anyone who wants is now invited to board.”
“We’ve been waiting six hours,” a passenger yelled out. “Why would anyone not want to get on?”
The flight attendant looked at us sheepishly and said, “In the process of fixing the air conditioner, the toilets stopped working. There will be no toilet facility on this flight. You are requested to use the airport restroom before boarding. Especially please take your children as this is the last chance until we arrive at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. But the good news is that the air conditioner is working.”
The passengers jumped up and rushed to the restrooms. A mother pulled the hand of her four-year old boy. “Come on Timmy, let’s go to the potty.”
“But mommy, I don’t have to go.”
“You have to go,” the mother corrected. “Come on.” She grabbed the boy’s hand and dragged him to the toilet.
“I don’t have to pee-pee.”
“You’re going anyway….”
It was a fifty-seat commuter jet. The good news was that the plane flew. The bad news was that the toilets were boarded shut, the lighting did not work, and the air conditioner, after all that time, still didn’t work. It was a ninety-five degree day. The plane was hot, muggy, dark, and Timmy decided he really did need to pee-pee and cried the whole trip. By the time we landed, every passenger was miserable.
As we trudged down the steps of the plane and onto the tarmac, there was Dorothy sitting in a wheel chair that she had requested, smiling and waving as everyone rushed by. The passengers were stunned to see one among them who could be so happy. I stopped to say farewell.
“Swami,” she said, “I chanted the mantra nonstop throughout the flight. I can’t remember being that happy in a long time.” She handed me the slip of paper with the mantra. “Will you write a message for me to remember you?” Taking her pen, I wrote of my appreciation for her and a little prayer. She pressed the note to her heart and smiled while tears streamed down her cheeks. Then she said something that I will never forget.
“Now, living or dying,” she said, “is only a detail. I know that God is with me. Thank you.”
I hurried into the terminal and looked up at a monitor. My airlines had one last flight to Hartford. It left in ten minutes from another terminal. There was still a chance. Have you ever seen a swami galloping across the corridors of an airport? One man yelled at me, “Why don’t you use your magic carpet?”
As I was running, it struck me that I had forgotten to take Dorothy’s cell phone number. How would I ever find out what happened to her? To this day I regret my foolishness. I made it just as they were closing the gate. Five seconds more and I would have been too late.
At the cultural center in Hartford, my hosts had adjusted the schedule to accommodate a late start time. I asked if there was a particular topic I should speak on.
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“Anything you like,” was the reply.
“Tonight’s lecture,” I announced, “is called ‘Why I am so late for the lecture.’”
We Can't Save You,
How to tell emergency room patients that they're dying.
By Joanne Kenen
Posted on Slate,
August 4, 2010
We thank Savitri Devi Dasi (Philadelphia) for submitting this article.
How should emergency room doctors treat patients with terminal illnesses?
On television, the emergency room patients beat the odds. Their hearts get shocked back to life. Their organs get sewn up. They awaken to a handsome young physician's dazzling smile.
In real life, one in 500 ER patients—200,000 a year—dies under the bright lights of the emergency rooms. Another 500,000—3 percent—die during hospital stays following emergency treatment. Countless patients learn, from a doctor they have never seen before and may never see again, that they have fatal diseases. Others get treated, aggressively and repeatedly, for dangerous flare-ups in conditions like heart failure or emphysema without anyone having the time or the skills to explain that the chronic disease they have been living with is now the chronic disease that they are slowly dying from, a scenario Atul Gawande explored in his recent New Yorker piece on what doctors can do when they can no longer cure.
The ER is not an easy place to come to these realizations or assess their consequences. A handful of physicians are trying to change that. Doctors like Tammie Quest, board-certified in both palliative and emergency medicine, hope to bring the deliberative goal-setting, symptom-controlling ethos of palliative care into the adrenaline-charged, "tube 'em and move 'em" ER. Palliative/emergency medicine collaboration remains rare, but it's growing as both fields seek to create a more "patient-centered" approach to emergency care for the seriously ill or the dying, to improve symptom management, enhance family support, and ensure that the patient understands the likely outcomes once they get on that high-tech conveyer belt of 21st-century emergency medicine.
Coming on duty for the 4-to-midnight shift at Emory University Hospital's emergency room in Atlanta, Quest noticed a 94-year-old woman with advanced dementia and a black eye. She had fallen two, maybe three, times in the past couple of days. Her nursing home did what nursing homes do reflexively: It called an ambulance. The elderly woman flinched at the gentlest touch. She recognized the "man with the kind face" at her bedside but no longer recalled that William Mitchell was her son. Quest addressed him kindly. "What do you want for her? What are your goals?" Mitchell first replied practically, noting, "I have power of attorney. She's not a person who wants to live forever." The rest came from the gut: "I want her to be back over [at her nursing home] tonight and be OK."
Emory is not the only hospital exploring the intersection of palliative and emergency care. At the Bronx's Montefiore Medical Center, a palliative care nurse is now stationed in the ER, where many of the community's poor receive their only health care. At Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, emergency physicians have learned to summon the palliative care cavalry for complex cases, and they say that interaction has improved their own ability to deal with death in the ER.*
The patients these doctors and nurses want to reach don't all need the technological wizardry of emergency medicine. They need someone who can control pain, delirium, or shortness of breath and who knows how to break bad news. Someone who, as Quest put it, understands the gap between emotional expectations and medical realities and can help the family define—and the medical team understand—the goals of care. And do it fast: "You can't clog up the ER," Quest says.
"The first hours in the [emergency department] are when determinative decisions are made about disposition and plan of care, and palliative care could be contributing to those decisions," Diane Meier, the director of the Center To Advance Palliative Care, wrote in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Palliative care in the emergency department can shore up pain and symptom control and help the family marshal resources, whether the patient opts for the ICU, hospice, or something in between.
Joe Stewart, 73, a lung cancer patient, had complex needs. "I have pain, I can't swallow. Everything I eat or drink tastes like crap, and I've been sleeping two days straight," Stewart told Quest. His fiancee, Starlett Graves, recited all of Stewart's many medicines by name, time, and dosage. ("She's good!" Quest exclaimed to Stewart. "What are you waiting for? Marry her!") His chemo, part of a clinical trial, had ended a month earlier. They were hoping for good news. But that night, tests showed a blood clot in his lung. Quest explained that he would have to remain in the hospital a few days. A fuller conversation about treatment options and implications would wait. This was enough to absorb, for now.
Quest was deeply concerned, too, about a gastric cancer patient, also 73. He had been diagnosed at another hospital a month ago, and either the oncologists had not explained his dire prognosis or the family had not taken it in. Now his kidneys had shut down. If the ER team could restart them, he might have two or three good months. If not, he might not make it until morning. The family expected a cure.
Quest was supposed to be off duty by then, but that family tugged at her. They needed "the conversation." Maybe not the whole, prolonged, complicated version. But a start. She pulled back the curtain and took her patient's hand. "In case things get worse, what do you want?" He couldn't whisper more than an uncertain word or two. She turned to his wife and grown children. "It's even harder if we don't talk about it." She explained the facts of life—or the facts of death—in the emergency room. When a death occurs, the ER rescues, resuscitates, revives. "We want to make sure we're doing what you want. And we're not doing things that you don't want."
Quest saw no stomach aches or sprained ankles in Emory's ER that night.
Each of her patients was admitted, at least for observation. The three most critically ill patients—the old woman from the nursing home, who turned out to have had a stroke, and the two men with cancer—survived the night. None was steered to hospice. It wasn't appropriate for her patients on that night. Maybe in the future, after another conversation.
No law passed by Congress, or payment change by Medicare, will change the role of palliative care, or the ingrained responses of emergency physicians. But change has nevertheless begun. Since 2007, more than 140 emergency doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains have been through a training program that Quest helps run to inject basic palliative expertise into emergency departments nationwide. Other schools and centers and foundations have started similar work. Pilots and partnerships will arise as health reform unfolds. Doctors in the two disciplines are finding and learning from one another.
The default patterns of emergency medicine are the patterns of much of U.S. medicine writ large. Health reform aims to change not only the financing but, to some extent, the culture of care. Reformers want to move away from a system that rewards the quantity of tests and procedures to one centered on the quality of care. They want a system that does a better job of caring for patients with slowly worsening chronic disease. Palliative care, though maligned and misunderstood during the summer of the "death panels," is part of that culture change. The emergency room is one place to start.
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The Lord's Sweet Shelter
Sent by: Adoksaja Das
Philadelphia Vaisnavas Care Team Volunteer
The three things that provided protection for the Pandavas were religion, God, and the brahmanas. As we go along, these three things are the major part of what we need to contemplate when we are considering how we are to conduct our lives. Controlling is Krishna's department and serving is our department. Krishna is in-charge of the outcome of what we do, and we are in-charge of the consciousness that we carry. These are the three areas we need to evaluate in order to make sure we are properly situated in our service in all circumstances of life.
The consciousness behind our acting according to theistic conduct, or religious principles, and following the guidance of brahmanas and Vaisnavas is that it must be done with full dedication to please Krishna. When those three things are in place from our side as servants, whatever Krishna decides in the outcome department is up to Him! Krishna is the master and the controller. What we need to be concerned about is these three things, and when we do those three things, we are protected. Religion protects the religious person. The favor, pleasure, and well-wishing of brahmanas and Vaisnavas gives us protection. Surrendering fully to the satisfaction of Krishna also gives us Krishna's protection. So, there is full protection when there is scripture, Vaisnavas, and Krishna!
From a lecture by HH Romapada Swami on 'Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.12-24' titled 'Teachings of Bhismadeva Part 3' delivered in Hyderabad, India on March 2005
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What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?
by Atul Gawande
The New Yorker
Kindly submitted by: Savitri Devi Dasi, Philadelphia, PA (U.S.)
Dying used to be accompanied by a prescribed set of customs. Guides to ars moriendi, the art of dying, were extraordinarily popular; a 1415 medieval Latin text was reprinted in more than a hundred editions across Europe. Reaffirming one’s faith, repenting one’s sins, and letting go of one’s worldly possessions and desires were crucial, and the guides provided families with prayers and questions for the dying in order to put them in the right frame of mind during their final hours. Last words came to hold a particular place of reverence.
These days, swift catastrophic illness is the exception; for most people, death comes only after long medical struggle with an incurable condition—advanced cancer, progressive organ failure (usually the heart, kidney, or liver), or the multiple debilities of very old age. In all such cases, death is certain, but the timing isn’t. So everyone struggles with this uncertainty—with how, and when, to accept that the battle is lost. As for last words, they hardly seem to exist anymore. Technology sustains our organs until we are well past the point of awareness and coherence. Besides, how do you attend to the thoughts and concerns of the dying when medicine has made it almost impossible to be sure who the dying even are? Is someone with terminal cancer, dementia, incurable congestive heart failure dying, exactly?...
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Srila Prabhupada Tolerated So Much Pain on Our Behalf
Excerpt from a lecture by HH Romapada Swami on 'Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.1-12' entitled 'Teachings of Bhismadeva-
Part 1' delivered in Hyderabad, India on March, 2005
Submitted by: Adhoksaja Dasa (Philadelphia Vaisnavas Care Team Volunteer)
July 20, 2010
"Grandfather Bhismadeva is in his position on the deathbed and it is said that he was feeling pained by the arrows piercing his body. He was a yogi, but it does not mean he did not know that he had pain. There are so many examples wherein Srila Prabhupada also transcended pain.
When Srila Prabhupada would take prasadam, he would sit on a mat with a little table in front of him. On one particular occasion in Delhi, after taking prasadam, he walked to the place to wash his hands. There was some water on the floor and his foot slipped. His whole body went up in the air and he landed on his back, right on the side of the table. Prabhupada did not make a sound, he looked this way and that way, got up and washed his hands. He was eighty year old at that time! Another time, Srila Prabhupada had a big infected tooth. It was swollen and it was very painful. Srila Prabhupada just tolerated the pain and did not go to a dentist. Some days later, the swelling had gone down and his servant asked if he was fine. Srila Prabhupada then pointed to the tooth in the drawer of his desk and gave to his servant! Srila Prabhupada had trouble with one of his kidneys and had difficulty digesting food. One of his continuing health problems was that the one kidney which was functioning had excess uric acid. So, periodically Srila Prabhupada's hands and feet would swell and he just tolerated it. Part of the purpose for the massage that he took was to let the swelling go down and to relieve the fluids in the body, as it is painful.
Every now and then, unless he had an extreme case of difficulty, he would just go on with his intense schedule of translating and travel. One time, at 1.30 am in the morning, he called his servant and said in a grave voice, "Too much pain that I can't translate". Srila Prabhupada was disappointed because of not being able to translate, not because of the pain. Srila Prabhupada was always in pain, bu
t he tolerated it. It was his transcendental way. Srila Prabhupada had the capacity like that of grandfather Bhismadeva. The next time we have a little ache or pain, we can think of grandfather Bhismadeva and Srila Prabhupada. The technique is to withdraw the consciousness from the temporary and invest the consciousness in the eternal -- specifically Krishna."
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A Poem from Braja-Sevaki Devi Dasi on the Passing of Vaisnavas
Submitted by New Vrindavan Communications
There’s a hole left in the kirtan cloud that hovers up above
It sits above our ISKCON world, showering us with love
It’s dark and deep, filled with music notes from Sri Golok
And through its soft white tendrils pass extraordinary folk
One day Gour Govinda that golden path did take
With Tamal Krishna, Sridhara, and two Bhaktis in his wake
Padmalochan, Nirguna, I can only name these few;
Grahila, now Aindra….I think that’s enough, don’t you?
The rain falls from that sweet, sweet cloud, and showers us below
With notes of Krishna’s holy name, a sound that we all know
But now that rain is different, its quality has changed
It carries with it now the tears of the devotees we’ve named
They look constantly upon us and see our hearts break in pain
at separation from them; life will never be the same…
And so we face the future days with choked and heavy hearts
Saturated in the love the raincloud now imparts
And so we come together, looking for that bhakti rain
We step out from our shelters into inevitable pain
We walk into its drenching arms and hold each others hands
Its bitter-sweet addictive taste gives us the strength to stand
We long to fill the earth with our collective kirtan song
Sung with a force that sends those notes right up where they belong
Through the blue-black cloud of love whose contents are so sweet,
To find their way up further, up to Krishna’s lotus feet.
And there we find each other always, nothing is amiss
Our lives entwined, connected by the thread of kirtan bliss
Its Krishna’s form, this holy name, and it’s come to take us home
Because on a day like this we know: that’s where we ALL belong…
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Krishna-Priya Dasi: Saved by Lord Krishna’s Song
By Madhava Smullen
Submitted by Lilavilasini Devi Dasi, Terni, Italy
July 12, 2010
For young Kumud Jeendgar, life had never been easy. From the day of her birth
in Jaipur, India in 1972, she had had severe physical disabilities. Her bones were
fragile and their structure crooked, and she was told that even as a fully
grown adult she would stand less than four feet tall.
Local children of her age weren’t very sympathetic to her condition—taller,
stronger, and also crueler than her, they would call her mean names and push
her to the ground when she tried to play with them. So her parents, fearing for the
safety of their fragile little girl, kept her at home with them and away from
other children and a traditional education.
Kumud wished for a normal childhood, in which she could go to school and play
with other kids. “I spent 24 hours a day hankering and lamenting,” she says
“I even dreamt of staying back as the other kids went to school, of sitting on
the sidelines while they had fun. I had no peace of mind.”
One day in 1988, when she was 16, her father brought her some books that he had
gotten from a travelling ISKCON devotee. They were by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada, whom she had never heard of—at the time there were no devotees and
no ISKCON center in Jaipur. However, she looked through them, selected
Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and began to read.
“Gradually I came to know that I was not really the temporary material body
that I had been lamenting for 24 hours a day, but a spirit soul, part of the
supersoul Lord Sri Krishna,” she says. “And I realized that lamention is not
worthwhile for human beings—as Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, the wise man
laments neither for the living nor for the dead.”
Kumud began to deeply rethink the way she was approaching her life. But if she
was not to lament, what should she do? What was the purpose of life? Continuing
to delve into the Bhagavad-gita every day, she found out: “Having come into
this temporary, miserable world,” Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita chapter 9 verse
33, “Engage yourself in loving service unto Me.”
Kumud was thrilled: she was not this body that gave her so much pain, and now
she had a purpose. But then she began to lament and feel sorry for herself
again. She didn’t have the physical ability that other devotees did—what
service could she do for Krishna?
Yet again, Bhagavad-gita came to the rescue: “One percent done in Krishna
consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the
point of two percent,” Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport to verse 40 of
chapter two. Reading this, Kumud gave her heartfelt thanks to Srila Prabhupada
for the happiness and solace that his words gave her.
“Reading Bhagavad-gita changed my life completely,” she says. “I was not able
to go to school like other kids, but the Gita gave me all the knowledge I needed.
I was not able to play with other kids, but every day I worshipped a deity of
baby Krishna as Laddhu Gopal at my home altar, and unlike the other mean children,
he was very kind to me. I had finally found the purpose of my life. I was relaxed,
happy and blissful, thanking Srila Prabhupada every day.”
Joining Srila Prabhupada’s Family
Kumud began to develop a desire to connect with Prabhupada’s family, ISKCON.
But it had no presence in Jaipur, so how could she? She didn’t know where to find
devotees and was worried that if she did, they wouldn’t take her seriously—all
her life she’d been looked down on by society because of her physical
And besides, she was only seventeen.
“I would pray, Prabhupada, please show me where and how I can connect with your
family,” she recalls. “And Srila Prabhupada, the savior of the suffering souls,
mercifully answered my prayer. When I wrote to New Delhi temple asking for more
books, one devotee, Jitamitra Dasa, wrote back saying that he wanted to see me
helped on the path of Krishna consciousness, although I hadn’t said anything
about my predicament. He advised me to visit New Delhi temple and meet his
Holiness Lokanatha Swami.”
Hearing about Lokanatha Swami, Kumud began to worship him as her spiritual
master with faith that he would become her guru, although she didn’t even know
what he looked like.
Finally, one day in 1990, she was able to visit Lokanatha Swami at the New
Delhi temple with great effort. Entering his office and paying her respects, she
said, “I came from Jaipur to get initiation from you, Guru Maharaja.” He looked at
her. He knew nothing at all about her, yet this little person was calling him
her guru and asking him for initiation. He laughed kindly. “Okay, just try to
come visit me here more often, and after some time I will consider giving you
But travelling was not easy for Kumud, and she would not take no for answer.
“I came here just to get initiation from you, and I will not leave you until you
accept me as your disciple,” she said, determined. Lokanatha Swami looked at
her, more seriously now. He knew of her physical challenges, and that she had
been born in an Indian Vedic family, and deduced that as such, she had probably
led a clean, pure life. “Are you chanting Hare Krishna?” he asked.
She replied that she was chanting sixteen rounds a day, and following the four
regulative principles. Finally, he accepted her as his disciple on the spot,
giving her the name Krishna Priya Dasi. She received formal initiation by
fire sacrifice two years later.
Srila Prabhupada to the Rescue
Now Krishna Priya felt she no longer had any reason to lament—she had
Laddhu Gopala, Srila Prabhupada’s books, and a spiritual master in Prabhupada’s
family. In 1996, she married Gopal aDasa and moved to the United States, where she
lived near the Hillsborough, North Carolina temple amongst other members of
Prabhupada’s family. Her life was happy and blissful.
But there was one other thing she wanted to do to make it whole. She had always
been fond of writing poems, and the Bhagavad-gita As It Is had inspired her and
changed her life. She wanted to write poems based on the Bhagavad-gita, to
share its wonderful message with others.
But in 2004, Krishna Priya succumbed to a strange illness that no local
doctors could identify. She returned to Jaipur, but although doctors there
tried hard, they could not figure out what was wrong with her either. Her health
deteriorated every day. Finally, doctors conducted an MRI, and found that her
brain had been dislocated and had slipped down towards her spinal cord.
Most sufferers of this extremely rare disease had passed away during surgery.
Those that survived had been left completely mentally and physically
disabled—vegetables that couldn’t leave their beds.
Krishna Priya’s family were distraught. And although she had often thought
about karma, one of the central messages of the Gita, as a way to explain her
difficult lot in life, Krishna Priya now thought desperately, “Oh Krishna,
what have I done to be put in this situation?”
But her brother was determined to save her life. “I want you to live, and to
live in good health,” he said. “Because I know that you have a special desire
in your heart, and I want to help you fulfill it.”
Searching all over India for the best surgeons, he finally narrowed his
findings down to two. Krishna Priya met both and talked with them about Srila
“One of the surgeons seemed very respectful towards Prabhupada, and I told my
family, I want this man to do my surgery,” she recalls. “If I’m destined to
leave my body during brain surgery, then at least I want it to be at the hands
of someone who has respect for Srila Prabhupada.”
Her family accepted her decision. Later, they discovered that the other
surgeon, whom she had rejected, would purposefully make mistakes during brain surgery so
that his patients had to stay in treatment for inordinate amounts of
time—sometimes over a year—thus making him more money. Krishna Priya’s parents
were shocked, but they realized that, in a way, Srila Prabhupada had saved
Then the time for surgery came. A group of nurses arrived to put Krishna
Priya on a rolling cart and take her to the surgery room, from where she
would probably never return. Lying down on the cart, staring up at the ceiling,
she thought about how Vaishnavas spend their whole lives preparing for the
final examination that is death—how they always hope that at the time of death,
they’ll be surrounded by other devotees, chanting the Holy Name. But here she
was, about to leave her body in an unconscious state during surgery.
“I never thought it would end like this,” she whispered to herself.
As the nurses began to pull the cart out of her room, her family broke down in
despair. They knew they would never see her again. Only her sister controlled
her mind and consciousness, and began to pull the cart with the nurses.
Then something happened that Krishna Priya would remember forever. Her
sister turned on the TV. If there was ever an inappropriate moment to turn on
the TV, this was it. But that’s what she did.
And as she did, Krishna Priya heard a familiar voice in her ear. She looked up.
There, on the TV screen, was Srila Prabhupada.
“My sister still asks me, ‘How could that have happened? Why did I turn on the
TV, and when I did, how could Prabhupada have appeared on it at that exact
moment?’” Krishna Priya says now. “And I tell her, ‘Don’t be surprised. Srila
Prabhupada has a Master’s Degree in saving suffering souls. And he came to save
On the TV screen, Prabhupada was dancing and singing for Lord Krishna. “The
moment I saw him, I completely forgot that I was about to die in a few
minutes,” Krishna Priya says. “I thought, Prabhupada is giving me some
instruction—perhaps the most important instruction of my entire life. So I joined him.
I started to sing and dance for Lord Krishna too. I didn’t care what the nurses or anyone
thought of me. I was happy. I went into the surgery room with a big smile on my
Krishna Priya’s family waited for hour after agonizing hour. Finally, a doctor
emerged and told them the news: she was alive; but they didn’t know what her
mental or physical condition was.
“My sister came to see me in the Intensive Care Unit,” she recalls. “I was only
half-conscious, but I was calling out ‘Prabhupada, Prabhupada.’ My sister was
delighted because the fact that I remembered his name proved that my brain was
in good working order. She asked me, ‘What do you want to do for Prabhupada?’
Still half-conscious, I replied that I wanted to teach for Prabhupada. This
made my sister even happier, because it showed her that I had drive and focus.”
Krishna Priya recovered fast, getting discharged from the hospital in just one
week. “Everything is working fine, and there are no complications,” the doctor
told her family. “But be careful—her immune system is very weak, and if she
gets any kind of infection, it will not be easy to control.”
Finding Solace in Lord Krishna’s Song
The happy family returned home to Jaipur. But disaster struck again. Every day,
visitors crowded into their home to see how she was doing, and despite her
family’s best efforts to have them keep their distance, she got an infection.
Spreading throughout her body, it finally burrowed deep into her brain. Doctors
at the local Jaipur hospital could not control the infection and at last
declared: “All you can do now is wait until she passes away—it’s impossible to
save her life.”
Once again, however, her brother would not accept it. He took her back to
Bombay hospital, where doctors struggled to save her. They could not re-operate, and
without re-operating, how could they get to her infection and heal it?
Meanwhile, Krishna Priya was tottering between life and death; every day felt
as if it were her last. Yet through her suffering, she thought of her mission to
write poems on Bhagavad-gita As It Is. “I never told people about how this
transcendental literature changed my life,” she thought. “And now I’m going to
leave without fulfilling my life’s purpose.”
With deep sadness in her heart, she began to pray to Krishna. “Oh Lord, please
give me one last chance,” she said. “I promise that if I recover, the first
thing I’ll do is write my poems on the Bhagavad-gita and to tell everyone how
this special book helped me to overcome all obstacles.”
She prayed every day. Her family, her family’s friends, and her fellow devotees
back in New Goloka prayed along with her. And finally, doctors decided to try a
new treatment they’d never tried on her before. There was no guarantee that it
would be successful, but there was no other hope—it was a last resort.
The treatment involved giving Krishna Priya heavy steam therapy several times a
day. It was May, one of the hottest months of the year in India, and every time
the steam touched her fragile little body, the pain was almost unbearable.
But Krishna Priya remembered the Bhagavad-gita’s teachings in chapter 6, verse
19: “As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist,
whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the
These words from Lord Krishna Himself gave her the power of
tolerance she needed to endure the therapy. And finally, her infection cured,
she was once again discharged from Bombay hospital and returned to her family
home in Jaipur. This time, her family was very careful—no one was allowed into her room apart
from one nurse. But the dark times weren’t over yet.
“I was so fragile that I couldn’t open my eyes because even a tiny bit of light
was too much for them,” she says. “My ears couldn’t tolerate any sound—even
someone entering the room was unbearable. I could not eat food, and survived on
a liquid diet. The doctors said they didn’t think I would recover. Even my
family were losing hope—how could I recover if I could not tolerate any light,
sound or food?”
But Krishna Priya herself did not lose hope. She thought of Srila Prabhupada
and Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad-gita, and one particular verse, 2.14, stood out
in her mind. “O Son of Kunti,” Krishna says to Arjuna, “The non-permanent
appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course,
are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise
from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them
without being disturbed.”
Meditating on this one verse over and over, Krishna Priya had faith in
Krishna’s promise that the darkness and doom would pass just like winter and summer
seasons; that she would be able to see Lord Krishna’s beautiful form once
again, and to listen to her Guru Maharaja’s kirtan again.
Sharing Krishna’s Message With the World
Gradually, she recovered. She could see, listen, and eat once again. And
emerging from the darkness, she remembered her promise to Krishna, and her
mission to write a poetry book based on the Bhagavad-gita.
Staying in Vrindavana, India between December 2006 and March 2007 with her
husband, she decided to try to write poems in the holy land where Krishna once
Despite still suffering from dizziness and other health issues, and despite
doctors’ orders not to read or write, she stayed firm in her mission. “Maybe my
situation will get worse again,” she thought. “Now is the time.”
Writing a collection of heartfelt poems in Vrindavana, she enlisted her
mother-in-law, Nancy Rosenberg, in editing the book and her brother in helping to
print it. Upon her return to North Carolina, Krishna Priya added more poems and
illustrated the book with drawings of lotuses, lily pads, conches and Krishna’s
flute to create a second edition. Srila Prabhupada disciple Madan Mohan Mohini
Dasi edited, with Mayapriya Dasi designing the cover. Lotus Lryics: Poems
Inspired by Lord Krishna’s Bhagavad-gita garnered appreciation from the general
public as well as devotees, with the local Herald Sun newspaper publishing an
article about Krishna Priya’s life and book.
Today, Krishna Priya continues to live near the New Goloka temple in
Hillsborough, North Carolina, where the devotees and her mother-in-law Nancy
care for her. She spends her time dressing Giriraj, making garlands for the
deties of Sri Sri Radha Golokananda, cleaning the temple room and cooking Vedic
sweets. She is currently working on a Vedic sweet cookbook featuring recipes
offered to Jaipur’s Sri Sri Radha Govind dev Ji, and has nearly completed
illustrations for it, including a painting of Krishna’s eternal consort Srimati
“I’m not a very qualified person, and my ignorance is very deep, but I was
eager to do something to please Srila Prabhupada,” Krishna Priya says with real
humility. “I feel that I’ve achieved my life’s purpose, in sharing Krishna’s
message with the world in my own way. And now that my work is done, I feel that
whenever I do eventually pass away, I can leave my body peacefully.”
Krishna Priya's artwork and her book, Lotus Lyrics, are available to buy here:
With sincere prayers for your well-being and dandavat pranama,
Your humble servants at,
Sri RadhaGovindaji Dhama
ISKCON - Ahmedabad - INDIA
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By: HH Radhanath Swami
Submitted by: Sumati Devi Dasi, Alachua, Florida (U.S.)
July 2, 2010
“Although the foundation of a building cannot be seen, it holds up the entire building. Without a strong foundation, in time, even the most glorious palace will crumble. The foundation of our communities is in our spiritual practices, our moral values and in our personal relationships.
It is a tendency to prioritize those endeavors that bring quick tangible results. However, those results are soon to crumble unless we balance our priorities with the foundational personal needs of our devotees.
Effective spiritual leaders are responsible to provide mature vision to assure the welfare of our devotees in the present and for the future. People need to feel loved, cared for and appreciated. Creating this environment is foundational to a Krishna Conscious community. Without such relationships few people will continue to chant the holy names with sincere feeling.
Modern corporate farming aims at immediate results with little concern for how it affects the environment in the future. Srila Prabhupada condemned it. He stressed sustainable farming wherein we are very sensitive toward living in harmony with Krishna’s natural plan.
Lord Chaitanya compared Krishna Consciousness to cultivating the seed of bhakti in the field of the heart. It is important that we cultivate devotee’s hearts in a sustainable way wherein they will remain faithful and enthused throughout their lives. Too many times we push devotees to get the fruit of some result but as time passes the tree of his or her enthusiasm dies. Srila Prabhupada would call that ‘penny wise and pounds foolish.’
Srila Prabhupada was a perfect leader. He could push his devotees to get big results but at the same time his love, compassion and care would nourish, sustain and bring the highest joy to our hearts. He profoundly cared for each devotee who came to his society and expected his leaders to do so on his behalf. He expressed his concern again and again for our sadhana, and service attitude but also our health, the quality of our Prasad, our children and he was especially concerned that we felt happy, protected and inspired in our devotional service. We felt nourished and empowered by his love and care even from thousands of miles away and even if we only personally saw him every couple of years. Once when stressing the importance of caring for the devotees, he exclaimed, “I have shed buckets of blood for each and every devotee.
When I was serving in a previous ISKCON community, the priority was given to projects with little vision toward sustaining a quality spiritual life for the people giving their lives to build the project. There was little priority given to educating or encouraging healthy family relationships. Everything was focused on work and sadhana. Any other consideration was labeled as maya. I began to realize that our so-called hard work and strong sadhana is superficial if we are neglecting or causing pain to Krishna’s beloved devotees. It appeared that the devotees were seen as disposable tools to build the project. Grand accomplishments were achieved in that place but without a healthy, caring community it was a building without a solid foundation.
In the course of fulfilling those incredible projects, many devotees’ hearts were broken. They felt uncared for and gradually the morale of the once thriving community disintegrated.
Over the years I witnessed too many people who had come to Srila Prabhupada’s society with innocent faith and enthusiasm only to later suffer emotional anxiety due to neglect, feeling they had been cheated or rejecting ISKCON in bitterness. What I saw broke my heart. I believed that our leaders needed to take serious responsibility, on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf, to be caretakers of his beloved children.
When I came to India, I thought, let me try to do the opposite of what I had seen, projects before people. If I fail, let me fail in this way. Therefore our mission became – If the devotees are cared for spiritually, emotionally and physically, Srila Prabhupad and Krishna will be pleased and the projects will naturally flourish. .”
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The Protection of Our Elderly- Who is Responsible?
by Niscala dasi
Posted June 23, 2010
As lifespan increases, and as the “baby boomers” near retirement age, many countries of the world, who think it is important, are straining under the weight of supporting their elderly. We also have our “baby boomers” – those who joined ISKCON at age 17-25 in the boom time of ISKCON: Prabhupada’s time, and shortly after. A huge number of devotees are now entering their sixties, and are reaching a very vulnerable point in their lives. If they have achieved a position of authority in ISKCON, their financial security is assured. If they left ISKCON while still young, and pursued education and career, again, they are assured of financial security, and may even be quite wealthy, as their superannuation matures... But a great number of devotees gave up all chance of career to surrender to this movement and to do humble and menial services, being not ambitious. They are now at the mercy of various temples, not all of which are compassionate to the needs of the elderly, and even fewer, ready to give them practical assistance. Usually they demand either rent, or full-time active service, which devotees as they age, having never had a career, find less and less possible.
Why did such devotees make no plans, whatsoever, for their retirement, and what is it about our movement, that we feel no responsibility for them? Is there any justification, in our philosophy, for such a situation?
Krsna’s Care of His Devotees
Many devotees, in their vibrant and gullible youth, were preached to that “if you just surrender, Krsna will take care of you!” They believed it, and we believe it, but how does that care-taking happen? Is it like in the Bible- as in manna, falling from heaven? Or maybe, it is like what happened to Sudhama brahmana- you just walk back home and voila’, a palace is there!
Of course, sometimes Krsna does act personally in His devotees’ lives, through a miracle or by divine intercession, but more often, in the normal course of events, He acts through His devotees- those souls on the planet whose will is lined up with His own. Such devotees do not pass on their own responsibilities to the Lord, until all their own energy is exhausted in carrying out His will- His service. Arjuna, before the war of Kuruksetra, wanted Krsna to do the fighting for him- but when enlightened by Bhagavad gita, he took on the responsibility himself, without personal motivation… executing His mission of “vinasaya ca duskritam”
In the manner of “paritranaya sadhunam”, Yuddhistira after the Kuruksetra war, did not have the attitude towards the war widows "Krsna will take care of them" but arranged for their maintenance, meticulously… Arjuna, when escorting Krsna's widows, did not think "Krsna will take care of them" but did everything he could to protect them. Ksatriyas are extremely protective of the vulnerable and defenseless, of women, children and the elderly. They saw themselves as instruments of the Lord- His arms. They knew the Lord could protect anyone personally, who surrendered, but they wanted to act on the Lord’s behalf. It is like seeing someone cleaning the house, and you pick up a cloth to do their work for them. This is service in friendship.
Why then does the Lord declare that He will protect His devotees? Judging from the examples of vaisnava behavior, described above, the stress is not to encourage us to avoid taking responsibility for others, but to challenge oneself- to test one’s faith in the Lord. When the Pandavas were elderly, they left home and, completely unprotected, they headed for the dangerous slopes of the Himalayas, and left their bodies in that way. So a devotee doesn't care for material arrangements for his own protection, trusting in Krsna, but when it comes to others, especially Krsna's devotees, he is very careful to make all arrangements for them.
Faith and Service
There are two situations here- Krsna’s protection of oneself, and Krsna’s protection of others. For us, the first situation is about faith, the second about service. Instead, we often use claims of faith to avoid service. When it comes to our own security, we make all arrangements, forgetting that Krsna will protect us, but when it comes to the security of others who have surrendered their lives to the Lord’s service, we then like to quote “Krsna will protect”, thereby exhibiting a lack of service attitude, what to speak of vaisnava compassion, and all the while using “faith in Krsna’s protection” as a way of shielding from guilt and responsibility. As far as Krsna's protection is concerned, following the Pandavas, we should never say "Krsna will take care of you/them" but only "Krsna will take care of me".
Such an attitude pleases the Lord, whereby we can be assured of His protection. On the other hand, why should Krsna take care of us, now or at the time of death, when we do not take care of others? When we are so helpless on our deathbeds, will we remember all those occasions when we neglected those in a helpless situation? Even if we do not remember, Krsna certainly will, as the Witness within. Even if we are calling out to Him, He will surely hide from our sight, because in the past we neglected those who needed us. One needs to be a fish, a creature of the water, to enter water. Similarly, one needs to be godly, like God, to enter God's kingdom. Krsna is known as the shelter of surrendered souls. We have to be so, too.
A Common Objection
It may be argued that temples are transcendental shelters for the fallen souls, and therefore ensuring their financial security by demanding rent or full-time service from all the residents, regardless of circumstances, benefits the world, even if it forces those who are devoted- but too poor to give money, or too old to do active service- out on the street. So it may be argued that we are not putting our own security before others, but “seeing the wider picture”. The wider picture, however, includes people’s perceptions of us, and they perceive much more than just the opulence of the temple. If people visit the temple and see a caring dynamic going on there, with the elderly and vulnerable respected, honored and cared for, they are more likely to appreciate us, listen to us, imbibe the philosophy, become devotees themselves, and thereafter, maybe for a lifetime, support the temple through contributions from their wages, as our Indian congregation do, or by selling books and paraphernalia. On the other hand, if we are cold and exploitative of people who have offered their whole lives to this movement, how much more so will we be to the people we are preaching to? They will certainly perceive that our words are nothing more than empty rhetoric, devoid of sincerity. People may be ignorant, but they are not stupid.
Some Short and Medium Term Solutions
A short term solution is to expose the injustice and make devotees aware of the extent of the problem, so that we each feel responsible for our elderly and senior devotees . That is practical compassion- an essential vaisnava quality. A medium term solution is to pressure the GBC to pass a resolution that no devotee who has given their "best" years to ISKCON- i.e. the years they could have spent in economic development and sense gratification- be neglected in time of need. There is now a hospice in Vrindavan for the terminally ill, at least we have that. We also need facilities for those not quite at that stage- for those who can no longer do active service or give money to ISKCON. It should be enough that the elderly chant the Holy Name, which is active service, but not one we benefit from! They can also greet guests and be friendly to them.
There needs to be a GBC resolution that every temple offer facility to elderly devotees, regardless of whether they can presently give active service or money, and the only thing required of them is that they be friendly and talk to guests, and chant. If the temple does not have facility, then the temple leaders should be required -by GBC resolution- to canvass the local devotee community for someone with a spare room, or if not then make inquiries from other temples. Providing facility for senior devotees should be seen by every community as important as chanting 16 rounds, distributing books, making festivals etc. We need to value our elderly devotees.
The long term solution is to have varnashrama, because protection of old people is enshrined in the responsibilities of the ksatriya leader. As Krsna cares for the even the devotees’ material needs, as well as providing inspiration within, so in varnashrama, the ksatriyas act as the Lord’s arms, providing shelter, and the brahmanas act as the Lord’s mouth, providing guidance. In varnashrama, material needs for every member are provided by the sudras, vaisyas and ksatriyas, and in respect to ashrama, the elderly are honored as vanaprasthis and vanaprasthas- a stage just before sannyasa. As a temple would offer all facility to a sannyasi- even one who wanted to stay permanently- so it should offer all facility to a vanaprasthi. It has always been part of vedic culture that husband-less women are taken care of, even if it is at a huge strain to the economy, such as after a war.
What About the Son/s?
Ideally, the son should take care of the mother in his house, but not all women have sons, not all have sons who can afford it, and many do not have devotee sons who think it is important, being influenced by western culture…if the devotee mother had lived in India, neglecting preaching in the west, she might have been spared this danger, but she took the risk- that is surrender. The fact is, however, both in the East and in the West, many of the grown sons of devotee women think that their mothers should be taken care of by ISKCON, as the mothers were probably dedicated more to ISKCON than to family matters, and the sons may be bitter towards ISKCON due to past childhood abuses.
Besides, all men in ISKCON are required to view women, other than their wives, as mothers, so they are behooved to support them . Viewing all women as mother is required to avoid sexual exploitation, but there are other types of exploitation that no mother should be subject to, such as profiting from her dependency. It appears that the loving and respectful terminology of “prabhu” and “mataji” that Prabhupada introduced has now lost all meaning, and the lessons of the sastras, such as Mahabharata reduced to merely entertainment, with nothing learnt.
We have the philosophy, and the examples of the acaryas in how to execute the philosophy, translate it into practical action. This is so we do not misuse the philosophy for our personal motivations. Prabhupada described us as apprentices. An apprentice does not stop with knowing that his master uses a certain tool, say a spanner, he needs to know how the master uses the spanner. He does not use the spanner to hit heads, or knock teeth out, for example. So the apprentice must carefully observe how his predecessor uses his tools. Our acaryas never used the concept of Krsna’s protection to be callous to senior devotees or even vulnerable citizens. It is only to be used on oneself- to try to please the Lord, even if doing so will threaten one’s security. Throwing mundane calculation to the wind, we need to take risks so that others are protected from risk, and given shelter.
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