Monday Morning Greetings #43 – How a Bhaktivedanta Purport Saved Me from a Mental Hospital

October 24th, 2016

I am fortunate to have had very wonderful parents. In fact, my 96-year-old mother is still alive and when I am in the USA I try to stay with her for a couple of days every month. Why am I saying this? I am about to tell the story of when they had me kidnapped to save me from being a Hare Kṛṣṇa, which they were convinced at the time was a cult, and I would not want anyone to think bad of them in the least. They were very decent people. They kidnapped me over 40 years ago when us young, passionate, dedicated devotees couldn’t always communicate properly the profound truths that we were experiencing, especially to our parents, and when most people, such as my parents, had very little frame of reference to understand an exotic new religious movement in America. Anyway, out of love for me they tried to save me from something they thought was harmful, and unfortunately, not being properly informed, resorted to deprogramming. Looking back, I equally blame myself for that miscommunication. *
I am not going to tell the whole story here. I am just going to highlight the part of the story where the recollection and sharing of a specific Bhaktivedanta purport saved me from being committed to Kings County Mental Hospital. Here it goes.
After being kidnapped from the temple in Dallas, Texas by the famous deprogrammer Ted Patrick, I was eventually able to feign that he was successful in his attempt to deprogram me. I was thus sent home, but under the watch of his assistant, a thug named Goose**. When my father and Goose took me shopping to get new western clothes at Kings Plaza, the largest shopping mall in Brooklyn at the time, I made a run for it at a choice moment when Goose went into the bank to change money. Somehow as I was running out of the mall with my father chasing me, the police nearby apprehended me thinking I was a thief. But when they asked my age and understood that I was 24-years-old, they initially wanted to let me go free. On my father’s insistence that I was crazy, however, they finally agreed to take me to a mental hospital to determine if I should be committed. I was booked at the nearest police station, handcuffed, and taken to the mental hospital to be interviewed by the psychiatrist who would make the final decision on my mental status. My parents were interviewed first to register their complaint. I was left in the waiting hall outside his office. I paced back and forth chanting on my fingers among the other people there (my beads had been taken), many in the process of being committed. I specifically remembered one lady talking to the wall as if it were her boyfriend who jilted her and another man strapped to a wheel chair in a straight jacket screaming and kicking as violently and angry as anyone I have ever seen. The interview with my parents was soon finished and the psychiatrist called me in.
I sat down directly opposite the psychiatrist as he carefully examined me. Dr. Cohen then looked me in the eyes and asked in earnestness, “Are you hallucinating?”
“Why do you ask that?” I replied.
“I saw you pacing back and forth in the hallway talking to yourself.”
I must have looked crazy, I thought. When I returned home I had no western clothes after my parents confiscated my devotional attire. In fact that’s why my parents took me shopping. Temporarily all they could find around the house were extremely baggy jeans before they were in fashion, an old high school sports team jacket with vinyl like sleeves and a felt like front, and a strange fez that my father was gifted by a Pakistani insurance salesman. To make my appearance even more strange I was pacing back and forth rapidly shaking my head back and forth in ecstasy as I was chanting out loud “my rounds” of the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra and keeping track by counting on my fingers. I must have looked, well, crazy!
But somehow in response to the psychiatrist I had the gumption to look him right in the eye and in those good old early days of Hare Kṛṣṇa missionary zeal, enthusiasm, and confidence – “fired up” as we would say – repeat exactly what I had just read in a Bhaktivedanta purport from the third canto of the Bhāgavatam just the day before I was kidnapped:
“Although I am not hallucinating it can’t be said that I am seeing the same as you. Just like one who is not a theist sees a rose as separate from God and made only for his own enjoyment. A devotee, however, sees that flower as the energy of God and meant to be used in his service. And therefore although I am not hallucinating it cannot be said that I AM SEEING THE SAME THING AS YOU!”
As I was repeating those last words I slowed down my speech for emphasis simultaneously pointing my finger at the psychiatrist. The jaw of the psychiatrist dropped and he paused before gathering his words.
“That’s very intelligent. I think your parents are crazy!”
I could imagine the fervor in which my parents presented their case and the contrast between my lucid and clear explanation practically word-for-word from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. He released me.
So that’s how Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books saved me from being committed to a mental hospital.
Rathi Kṛṣṇa recently found the exact purport that I had studied and repeated to the psychiatrist that one fateful morning forty-one years ago. I will share it verbatim from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport. I think the readership of Monday Morning Greetings will value the degree of its clarity and force that even a psychiatrist, who probably wasn’t even a theist, appreciated its profundity at a time when the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement was still not even recognized as an established religion.
“[…] A conditioned soul sees a very beautiful rose, and he thinks that the nice aromatic flower should be used for his own sense gratification. This is one kind of vision. A liberated soul, however, sees the same flower as a reflection of the Supreme Lord. He thinks, ‘This beautiful flower is made possible by the superior energy of the Supreme Lord; therefore it belongs to the Supreme Lord and should be utilized in His service.’ […]” Bhag. 3.27.13, Purport
* Epilogue of sorts—after the kidnapping my parents visited a few years later in India. They became very appreciative of what I was doing as did all my family.
** “Goose is big, about six-foot-five, and strong as iron. He wears his hair long, with a sweatband around it. His arms are tattooed, and when he goes out on a mission he wears heavy boots, a leather vest, and a black leather gloves like a strangler. I think all that is part of psyching himself up. At heart he’s really a gentle young man, but when he gets riled, he has known to become aggressive. That night he got carried away.” – From Ted Patrick’s book, Let Our Children Go!

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