Category Archives: Ananta Sesa das

A life of service, a death of peace: The story of Manisha

By Bhagavati devi dasi and Ananta Sesa dasa

People face death in many ways. Some accept it stoically, while others fear it. This is the story of a woman called Manisha who faced it with grace, dignity, and the love of Krishna.

Manisha was first introduced to Krishna Consciousness in the 1980s and became a regular at the Radhadesh temple in Belgium. In service to Radha Gopinatha, she happily worked as a cleaner.

For the past twenty years, Manisha lived in Liège, where she distributed prasadam every Wednesday for the FFL program there. In addition, she hosted a bi-weekly kirtan program in her home. Her personal routine included chanting sixteen rounds of japa daily.

Even though Manisha was uninitiated, she did much to share the love of Krishna with others and to bring others to Krishna Consciousness. Sadly, she had one vice that she was unable to overcome—smoking. Throughout her life, she tried to quit many times, without success. The lure of maya was too strong.

In 2016, Manisha was diagnosed with cancer in the bladder and after having an operation, she received chemotherapy. After three treatments, she decided to stop the chemotherapy, since it was making her too sick. She knew that this would ultimately mean that the cancer would kill her, but at the age of 78, she was ready for that.

Her friend, Bhagavati devi dasi was able to help her quit smoking so that Manisha could live out her time with the devotees at Radhadesh. Through Krishna’s mercy, Manisha was able to sell her home in Liege and move to a home near the temple. Feeling inspired by this mercy, Bhagavati wrote to her spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Swami, and asked him to initiate her. Since she was now following all four of the regulative principles and chanting 16 rounds, he was very happy to do so. With special permission from the local temple authorities and GBC, Manisha was initiated.

After her initiation, she did quite well for some weeks, but then things started to go downhill very fast. She had developed metastasized bone cancer and was in a lot of pain. For the last two weeks of her life, she could no longer leave her bed. After a few days, Bhagavati called in the local palliative care team and requested a home nurse for Manisha.

Recognizing that spiritual care was more important than physical care, Manisha’s friend turned her room into a spiritual place with an altar opposite her bed. Pictures of Krishna adorned the walls, Bhagavati’s salagram sila moved into her room. When Manisha was introduced to Him, it was explained that at the end she would be able to hold Him in her right hand.

A recording of Srila Prabhupada’s japa played most of the time except for when she was listening to Bhagavad-Gita or Caitanya Caritamrta.

On Balaram’s appearance day, Bhagavati purified Manisha’s right hand, put a flower in it and asked for her prayer to Balaram. She asked Him to take her as soon as possible.

The next morning, Manisha was in a lot of pain. A morphine pump was set up to help her manage the pain. The next morning.  Bhagavati recalls, “Manisha was very sleepy and I just sat next to her bed to read to her. The doctor came again at 2 PM and told us that she would have another 24-36 hours. By 3 PM, I was sitting with Manisha together with another devotee and her breathing changed into the laboured ‘death rattle.’ I knew she would probably not have 24 hours, so I called my spiritual master, who happened to be at Radhadesh. He came half an hour later and started chanting for her. There were many devotees in the room with her. Her family was sitting at her left side and I was sitting at her right side armed with Tulasi leaves and Ganges water. I had put my salagram sila in her right hand and she was holding on to Him tightly.”

“We could regularly see her lips move when she was trying to chant with the kirtan”, Bhagavati continued, “At 4:40 PM, she opened her eyes and started staring with huge eyes. At 4:45, she smiled, chanted Hare Krishna and stopped breathing for a long time. I quickly administered the Tulasi leaves and the Ganges water. She breathed one more time and left while her spiritual master was chanting and I was also chanting the mantra in her right ear very loudly.”

In the Bhagavad-Gita (18.66), Krishna says:

sarva-dharman parityaj
ya
mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”

In line with this teaching, Kadamba Kanana Swami stated that since Manisha had given up everything she had in Liège in order to move and leave her body in Radhadesh, Krishna reciprocated.  This act of surrender was her ticket back home to Godhead.

~~~~~~

Manisha’s picture and this article are published with her personal permission. Thank you Manisha for your determination, kindness and example. You’re an inspiration to us. Hare Krsna

All about the ‘Vedic Care Radhadesh’ here.
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Krishna Consciousness Benefits Body and Soul

Humans have a great fear of growing old. We worry about the loss of looks, stamina, and abilities. We are concerned about our declining health and ultimately, we are concerned about the fact that every day we grow older, we are moving one step closer to death. People react to this fear in various ways. Some people accept the fact, but lament it; while others strive to hold onto their youth for as long as possible. In either case, the end result is misery.

In the first instance, the individual will sit idly by as their life slips away, and they will live in mortal fear of its passing — embracing every ailment and every pain as further reason to lament. In the second instance, a person will dye their hair and undergo plastic surgery to maintain the illusion of youth. One will expend their lives in a mundane search of adventure, believing this to be the purpose of their existence, and not understanding the suffering they are bringing on themselves through such senseless activity.

No matter how hard one tries to escape it, aging and death are inevitable; but they do not have to lead to misery and suffering, nor do they need be a cause of lamentation. Krishna Consciousness can teach the reality of old age and death. The Bhagavad-Gita states:

jara-marana-moksaya
mam asritya yatanti ye
te brahma tad viduh krtsnam
adhyatmam karma cakhilam

“Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities” (BG 7.29).

Srila Prabhupada’s purport on this verse further says: “Birth, death, old age and diseases affect this material body, but not the spiritual body. There is no birth, death, old age and disease for the spiritual body, so one who attains a spiritual body, becomes one of the associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and engages in eternal devotional service, is really liberated.” The Bhagavad-Gita instructs us that we are not these bodies.

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones” (BG 2.22).

The physical body is temporary. Disease, old age and death of this physical form is inevitable. This knowledge is greatly needed at the present time. ISKCON is 50 years old this year, which means that many devotees are now in their 70s and 80s. They are feeling the effects of this material condition. What is to become of the devotee who suffers a terrible disease or infirmity which prevents him from caring for himself? Like many people, he may need to enter a retirement facility or hospice where he can be cared for.

Unfortunately, in almost every instance, these facilities are not Krishna Conscious. One may ask why this matters. Are the devotees not receiving the medical care and attention required? The answer is yes and no. Different facilities have different standards of care, but even if one receives the best care that western science can provide, that care is still deficient without Krishna.

The Krishna Conscious lifestyle will greatly enhance the spirit soul, but it can also make the material life better. To demonstrate this point, let us consider three key elements: Diet, Association, and Sankirtan.

The Bhagavad-Gita says:
yajna-sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin” (BG 3.13).

The devotee who is fed only Krsna Prasad will enjoy a karma-free diet that aids in the liberation of the soul. Such a diet will also benefit the heath of the material form. The diet of most western non-devotees is high in fat, cholesterol, starch and artificial additives. It usually also includes liberal quantities of alcohol. Each of these will lead to health issues such as heart, kidney and liver disease. The greatest contributor to these problems is meat consumption.

To offer just one thing to illustrate this point, we should consider that humans are designed like herbivores, and as such, our intestinal tract is twelve times the length of our bodies. So, when a person consumes meat, it will sit in the intestinal tract where it will rot and pick up parasites which can lead to further health problems. Despite this, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities continue to serve meat. In fact, many doctors argue that meat consumption is necessary for a healthy diet.

Our acarya, while still a small child, demonstrated the fallacy of medical science. In the first volume of Srila Prabhupada lilamrta, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami writes:
When Abhay was one-and-a-half years old, he fell ill with typhoid. The family physician, Dr. Bose, prescribed chicken broth.
“No”, Gour Mohan protested, “I cannot allow it.”
“Yes, otherwise he will die.”
“But we are not meat-eaters,” Gour Mohan pleaded. “We cannot prepare chicken in our kitchen.”
“Don’t mind,” Dr. Bose said. “I shall prepare it at my house and bring it in a jar, and you simply…”
Gour Mohan assented. “If it is necessary for my son to live.” So the doctor came with his chicken broth and offered it to Abhay, who immediately began to vomit.
“All right,” the doctor admitted. “Never mind, this is no good.” Gour Mohan then threw the chicken broth away, and Abhay gradually recovered from the typhoid without having to eat meat” (p. 5).

The Second aspect of the devotee’s life to consider is association. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states:

satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
 bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
 śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati

“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin” (SB 3.25.25).

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains: “One must give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of devotees because without the association of devotees one cannot understand the activities of the Lord.” When placed into a typical retirement home or hospice facility, the devotee is surrounded by materialists who speak of everything except Krishna. They may discuss issues of heath from a secular standpoint. They may discuss sporting events, the lottery or wins and losses at a recent trip to the casino. They may discuss the illicit activities of royalty, celebrity, and neighbor. They may blaspheme or use foul language. One will hear every manner of foolishness coming from the lips of these people, but never will one hear the transcendental vibration of Hare Krishna. Surrounded by such individuals, one could fall down in one’s service, relax one’s chanting, or otherwise be harmed in body and spirit. So, it is crucial that devotees have the opportunity to associate with other Krishna Conscious devotees.

The final aspect of the devotee’s life to consider in this article is Sankirtan, the chanting and hearing of the Holy Names. The regular chanting and hearing of the transcendental vibration of ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ is the supreme method of attaining Krishna Consciousness in this age of Kali. The benefits, both spiritually and materially, are legion. For example, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.2 tells us that “the Holy Name vanquishes the fear of material existence”, and in the Nectar of Devotion, it says “By chanting the Holy Names one becomes fearless of death.” Sankirtan is perhaps even more important for the elderly. It is indicated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that:

dakinyo yatudhanyas ca
kusmanda ye ’rbhaka-grahah
bhuta-preta-pisacas ca
yaksa-rakso-vinayakah
kotara revati jyestha
putana matrkadayah
unmada ye hy apasmara
deha-pranendriya-druhah
svapna-drsta mahotpata
vrddha bala-grahas ca ye
sarve nasyantu te visnor
nama-grahana-bhiravah

Here, elderly gopis are speaking to Lord Krishna. “The evil witches known as Dakinis, Yatudhanis and Kusmandas are the greatest enemies of children, and the evil spirits like Bhutas, Pretas, Pisacas, Yaksas, Raksasas and Vinayakas, as well as witches like Kotara, Revati, Jyestha, Putana and Matrka, are always ready to give trouble to the body, the life air and the senses, causing loss of memory, madness and bad dreams. Like the most experienced evil stars, they all create great disturbances, especially for children, but one can vanquish them simply by uttering Lord Visnu’s name, for when Lord Visnu’s name resounds, all of them become afraid and go away” (SB 10.6.27-29).

So, by chanting the Holy Names, one can be protected from many dangers and negative elements.

In conclusion, we can find that diet, association, and sankirtan are the crucial elements that will allow the elderly to accept aging without lamentation, and to accept death without fear. They will allow the devotee to live a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life right up to the moment of death. However, these are the very elements that are being denied many of our elderly devotees in traditional care facilities. This is why it is so important that Krishna Conscious retirement homes and hospice facilities be constructed. Once established, the elderly devotee in need of care will be fed delicious prasad, while being surrounded by other devotees engaged in the service of Krishna. Please help the Vedic Care Charitable Trust to attain this worthy goal.