Archive for February, 2001

New Jersey I’m recovering at

February 28th, 2001

New Jersey

I’m recovering at my mother’s house, which for now provides the seclusion and facilities I need for recovery. The surgery feels much better, but I think the drugs I took in the hospital have substantially weakened me. I hardly remember ever having taken even an aspirin in the last thirty years, but all day today there is fever, weakness, and a stomach virus.

Bhaktivedanta Hospital/New York/New Jersey A

February 27th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital/New York/New Jersey

A tough morning for the body, but some nice thoughts for the mind. Spontaneous devotional service means to aspire for the mood of the brijabasi. Although Srila Prabhupada has not revealed his eternal identity, I do know it in a sense. I know something of his qualities and his consciousness, which certainly must reflect his eternal mood of service in Vrindaban. By meditating on and aspiring for that, and contemplating how it’s connected with Vrindaban, it’s a preliminary meditation on following the mood of the brijabasis.

I leave early in the morning for the 7am flight to the U.S., but I’m still not well. The doctor said that full recovery could take a month. A tough flight back, but it ould have been much worse. Krishna protected me.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay More

February 26th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

More sannyasis are stopping in for a pit stop. Prahladananda Swami and Bhakti Caitanya Swami arrive today for some medical care. Now that I no longer going to Mayapur at the time of the GBC meetings, there are certain Godbrothers that I rarely see. We are all past fifty and our bodies are naturally wearing down so now the hospital is probably the most likely place I will see them. Prahladananda Swami and Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja are both very much involved with and staunchly loyal to the institutional side of ISKCON. By fate, I am much different. In some ways we are not likeminded, but they are real gentlemen, I respect them as saints, and admire their steady unmotivated service. I enjoy their association.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay I

February 25th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

I met Mother Nartaki, my Godsister and a professional nurse who just returned from the earthquake-afflicted area of Gujarat. She noted how pious people take shelter of God in distress. As their harinam party went from village to village, the people enthusiastically welcomed the devotees. At one village one family, including a mother with an injured child in her arms, came running to their door to respectfully greet the kirtan party. Nartaki Mataji looked up in appreciation at these pious and perseverant people, but cried when she noticed that the frame of their front door was the only thing still standing in their home. She cried for their suffering, cried for their stoicism, and cried for their simple piety and devotion.

She opined that such people would do much better than us at the time of death. They already struggle and work hard living a simple village farm life and are already so tolerant of bodily inconvenience and difficulty.

Giriraja, the orthopedic surgeon, also confirmed this. He has been operating on many of the villagers from Gujarat who have been rushed to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital. He described that because of their rigorous and natural life there are so much stronger than the people form the city. As proof of this, he described how after operating on some of the Gujarati earthquake victims, their bones would heal twice as fast as people with similar conditions from Bombay.

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February 24, 2001 Bhaktivedanta Hospital

February 24th, 2001

February 24, 2001
Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

In the last week I couldn’t concentrate and enjoy Krishna consciousness because of my discomfort and illness. My condition wasn’t that bad. Isn’t it time that I started transcending the bodily concept of life? What will I do at death? The happiness of Krishna consciousness is bhakti, or love?a condition of the heart. Why should it be so hampered by the condition of my body? Perhaps I am equating spiritual consciousness with mundane comforts and peacefulness and thus becoming discouraged in spiritual life by the uneasiness of illness.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay A

February 23rd, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

A phone call comes and an argument of sorts ensues. It?s not a heated argument; in fact, the call is from a respectful person seeking advice. For me to help him, however, he needs to recognize some of the mistakes he has made. He is resistant and it leads to a long and absorbing discussion. After the call, I realized that during the call I had completely forgot the discomfort of my body.

It’s so clear that the identification with the body is just a mental conception. Why was I so absorbed in my body for the last few days? Why didn’t I transcend it more for kirtan and krishna-katha, like I did for a simple phone discussion? I lament.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay There

February 22nd, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

There are some Vaishnavas from India in the next room. They have been here for some time, but I was too ill to pay much attention to them. I’m feeling a bit better today and I start to take more notice. They are obviously not new converts to Vaishnavism. Converts may adopt the accouterments of the tradition, but still, the culture of one’s upbringing, in the form of certain behavior, mannerisms, speech, and even one’s mode of Vaishnava dress?such as colored kurtas and designer bead bags?often expose the adopted nature of one’s faith. I am not commenting on the status of devotion of those converted to Vaishnavism, because bhakti is independent, and the depth of commitment required to buck the religion of one’s birth often makes one very staunch in his practices. However, my point is that the dress, mannerisms, and expressions of my humble neighbors here in the hospital indicate the inborn nature of their faith and it naturally attracts me.

I made a point to speak to them today and was pleasantly surprised to find out they were not only Vaishnavas, but brijabasis from Varsana. They reside at the ashram at the base of mor kutir, where our kirtan party visited less than a month ago, only to be overwhelmed by the simplicity and purity of the local residents. Even more surprising was that they were the son and daughter of Babulal Ramji?the revered saint whose disappearance festival we visited that day by fate!

I spend some time with them and I am instinctively drawn to the simple devotion and character. They are leaving today. I lament that I didn’t get more of their association.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay Today

February 21st, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

Today is the only day I have a chance to get out on my stand-by pass as the airlines will soon get too crowded. If I don’t get on today, then I will have to purchase another ticket at a great expense. I am also taking the risk of leaving today, since you usually get business class with my pass, and this would, perhaps, make the journey tolerable. The doctors have advised that I not travel today because of the discomfort and pain, but they still assure me the risk to my overall health and recovery will probably not be jeopardized.

I go to the airport and wait for several hours, but there are absolutely no seats available even though I was told this morning that my chances were good. I realize that there are practically no more off-season flights in India, as the planes are almost always booked, and that my pass is almost useless. I’m actually relieved, however, to come back to the hospital since the trip would have certainly been hell.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay I

February 20th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

I am meeting so many substantial devotees here, many whom I have known before. Yesterday I spoke with Damodar Pandit from the hospital?s spiritual care department. I?ve known him since the early 1980s when he was in charge of the Bhakti-Kala-Ksetra theatre in Hare Krishna Land, Juhu. He’s a very compassionate person, a missionary in the traditional sense, and works tirelessly day and night comforting those suffering in the hospital by giving them spiritual knowledge. He cannot recall one person who was not receptive.

His background is interesting. He met Harikesa and Sacinananda Maharaja at a program in Vienna where he was going to school at the time. He was, at the time, a South Indian Christian, whose mother was a pious catholic who even helped Mother Theresa.

He shared his realizations with me:

?When one is suffering disease, being denied pleasure, they often tend to want to take shelter of material enjoyment. Their suffering only increases. If, however, they take shelter of spirituality, to the extent that they do, their suffering decreases. It’s a scientific formula. It’s amazing to see the relief the patients automatically feel by just a little transcendental knowledge and how many of them become inspired to go further in spiritual life. I am dedicating my life to helping people in this way. What else is there to live for??

Damodar Pandit?s wife died of cancer and by seeing her totally conquer fear by her faith in Krishna, he accepted her as a type of guru. When she died he became completely detached and dedicated his life to sharing with sick or dying people what he had learned from her. I am very inspired by such devotees who are selfless and detached, concerned only for the welfare of others.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay A

February 19th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

A surgeon’s life is very hectic. He may be called upon for an emergency operation at any hour of the day, sometimes even in the middle of the night. I therefore appreciate that Krishna Prema visits me daily to deal with a few minor complications from the surgery.

During his visits we mostly speak krishna-katha and today we spoke for several hours. I heard that Krishna Prema has made many of his patients Krishna conscious. I don’t remember the number, but I seem to remember the number at either thirty or eighty. I was curious how he is was able to introduce so many people to Krishna consciousness, most of them now chanting sixteen rounds, and asked him how he does it.

He explained that although he doesn’t overtly try to convert his patients to Krishna consciousness, several factors cause the patients to inquire about devotional service. He wears tilak. The patients are impressed with the hospital and the character and spirituality of the doctors. The doctor-patient relationship is naturally one of respect. In addition, I observe that he is a very personable, approachable, and is a good communicator.

I like the concept of introducing people to Krishna consciousness by showing how our philosophy is practically demonstrated through our character and work in the world. I see this type of outreach as the future of Krishna consciousness, especially in America, although attractive centers of Krishna consciousness to invite people to are also important. I’ve already seen many examples of this, where people who would ordinarily never meet devotees are introduced to Krishna consciousness by becoming attracted to the character of a devotee at work. One example stands out in my mind.

Kunja-Kisori was a secretary at a fairly large advertising corporation in New York City. She was competent, well-liked, and did not hide that she was a devotee. She was therefore able to invite me to her office on a Friday afternoon and inform the staff there that her guru was coming. It was an informal dress-down day at the office, but still, I was surprised to see that over 40 people left their offices to meet me by her desk. I visited many other offices in her firm as well. At one office, I was given a bouquet of flowers. At another office, a respectable looking middle-aged man with a full crop of gray hair suddenly appeared at our door, handed me a banana, and with a smile on his face totally surprised me by saying, ?Have some some prasadam! There was even one computer print out on one office door that read ?WELCOME HARE KRISHNA!?

If there were a Krishna conscious center in Manhattan at the time I would have invited her whole office, and certainly many would have come. I was, however, able to arrange a dinner program at a friend?s apartment on the Upper West Side, but unfortunately, by apartment rules, only fifteen guests could be hosted. When I was organizing the program with Kunja-Kisori, she had to be very thoughtful on whom to invite because there were more people interested then we could accommodate. It was a successful program. Fifteen people came, including the production manager and senior writer, and I became convinced that this approach to introducing Krishna consciousness was very effective.

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