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To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients

From The New York Times: A New York State statute to protect the infirm has become a routine tool for nursing homes to ensure bills are paid.

Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she did.

Mr. Palermo, who was the lead singer in a Midtown nightclub in the 1960s when her elegant tango first caught his eye, now regularly rolls his wife’s wheelchair to the piano at the Catholic nursing home in Manhattan where she ended up in 2010 as dementia, falls and surgical complications took their toll. He sings her favorite songs, feeds her home-cooked Italian food, and pays a private aide to be there when he cannot.

But one day last summer, after he disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo’s copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed.

It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step. Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality. But the Palermo case is no aberration. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of The New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.

In a random, anonymized sample of 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over a decade, Hunter College researchers found more than 12 percent were brought by nursing homes. Some of these may have been prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage. But lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection — a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianship statute in 1993.

At least one judge has ruled that the tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law, but the petitions, even if they are ultimately unsuccessful, force families into costly legal ordeals.

“It’s a strategic move to intimidate,” said Ginalisa Monterroso, who handled patient Medicaid accounts at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home until 2012, and is now chief executive of Medicaid Advisory Group, an elder care counseling business that was representing Mr. Palermo in his billing dispute. “Nursing homes do it just to bring money.”

“It’s so cruel,” she added. “Mr. Palermo loves his wife, he’s there every single day, and they just threw him to the courts.”

Brett D. Nussbaum, a lawyer who represents Mary Manning Walsh and many other nursing homes, said Mr. Palermo’s devotion to his wife was irrelevant to the decision to seek a court-appointed guardian in July, when the billing dispute over his wife’s care reached a stalemate, with an outstanding balance approaching $68,000.

The Palermos at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home, which had tried to obtain guardianship over Mrs. Palermo. Credit Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

“The Palermo case is no different than any other nursing home bill that they had difficulty collecting,” Mr. Nussbaum said, estimating that he had brought 5,000 guardianship cases himself in 21 years of practice. “When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid.”

Guardianship transfers a person’s legal rights to make some or all decisions to someone appointed by the court — usually a lawyer paid with the ward’s money. It is aimed at protecting people unable to manage their affairs because of incapacity, and who lack effective help without court action. Legally, it can supplant a power of attorney and a health care proxy.

Although it is a drastic measure, nursing home lawyers argue that using guardianship to secure payment for care is better than suing an incapacitated resident who cannot respond.

Mr. Palermo, 82, was devastated by the petition, brought in the name of Sister Sean William, the Carmelite nun who is the executive director of Mary Manning Walsh. “It’s like a hell,” he said last fall, speaking in the cadences of the southern Italian village where he grew up in poverty in a family of eight. “Never in my life I was sued for anything. I just want to take care of my wife.”

A court evaluator eventually reported that Mr. Palermo was the appropriate guardian, and questioned why the petition had been filed. But the matter still dragged on, and Mr. Palermo, who had promised to pay any arrears once Medicaid completed a recalculation of the bill, grew distraught as his expenses fighting the case reached $10,000.

In the end, Medicaid’s recalculation put his wife’s monthly copay at $4,558.54, almost $600 less than the nursing home had claimed, but still far more than the $2,642 Mr. Palermo had been paying under an earlier Medicaid calculation. As soon as the nursing home cashed his check for the outstanding balance, it withdrew the guardianship petition.

“They chose to use a strong-arm method, asking for somebody to be appointed to take over her funds, hoping for a rubber stamp to do their wishes,” said Elliott Polland, Mr. Palermo’s lawyer.

Many judges go along with such petitions, according to lawyers and others involved in the process. One judge who has not is Alexander W. Hunter Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan. In guardianship cases in 2006 and 2007, Justice Hunter ordered the nursing homes to bear the legal costs, ruling they had brought the petitions solely for the purpose of being paid and stating that this was not the Legislature’s intent when it enacted the statute, known as Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law.

Last year Justice Hunter did appoint a guardian in response to a petition by Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, but in his scathing 11-page decision, he directed the guardian to investigate and to consider referring the case for criminal prosecution of financial exploitation.

The decision describes a 94-year-old resident with a bank balance of $240,000 who had been unable to go home after rehabilitative treatment because of a fire in her co-op apartment; her only regular visitors were real estate agents who wanted her to sell. After Hebrew Home’s own doctor evaluated her as incapable of making financial decisions, the decision says, the nursing home collected a $50,000 check from her; it sued her when she refused to continue writing checks, then filed for guardianship.

“It would be an understatement to declare that this court is outraged by the behavior exhibited by the interested parties — parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who have all unabashedly demonstrated through their actions in connection with the person that they are only interested in getting paid,” he wrote.

Photographs of the Palermos from the late 1960s. Mrs. Palermo, now 90, has been living at the nursing home since 2010. Credit Nina Bernstein/The New York Times

Jennifer Cona, a lawyer for the nursing home, called the decision “grossly unfair to Hebrew Home,” but said she could not discuss details because the record was sealed.

Many cases in which judges grant nursing homes’ guardianship petitions never come to light. But one that challenges the legal propriety of such petitions for bill collection is now pending before the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court. Without explanation, that record, too, is sealed from public scrutiny.

“There is no transparency in the whole process,” said Alexandra Siskopoulos, a lawyer who represents a relative of the nursing home resident in the appellate case — a relative who had wanted to take the resident home. “Unfortunately, people’s eyes are not opened until it’s their family member, and at that point, it’s too late.”

Throughout the country, data is lacking on the most basic facts about guardianships, even how many there are. In New York State, with different rules in 62 counties and no centralized database, it has taken a team of researchers more than two years to collect information from a fraction of case files in 14 counties, said Jean Callahan, the director of the Brookdale Center on Healthy Aging at Hunter College.

Preliminary findings of the center’s study are not expected until later this year, but at the request of The Times, the researchers undertook a breakdown of the petitioners in a sample of the 3,302 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan from 2002 to 2012. More frequent petitioners than nursing homes (12.4 percent) were hospitals (16.1 percent), friends and family (25.3 percent) and Adult Protective Services (40.1 percent).

New York’s guardianship statute was part of a national movement to limit guardianships to the least restrictive alternatives necessary to prevent harm. A petition is supposed to be brought only by someone with the person’s welfare at heart, and guardianship is to be tailored to individual needs, taking into account the person’s wishes.

Instead, Ms. Callahan said, “it has become a system that’s very focused on finances.”

One afternoon, Mrs. Palermo dozed in her wheelchair while her husband described their careful preparations for old age, and the shock of discovering that papers drawn up by an elder law specialist were insufficient protection.

He recalled the fear and anger he felt when he first read the nursing home’s petition, on his bus ride back to a rent-stabilized apartment on East 36th Street filled with mementos of their happy marriage. They have no children. “Who better than me, the husband for 47 years, that she gave power of attorney?” he asked.

As his voice grew anguished, Mrs. Palermo began to moan and cry out incoherently. “Are you O.K., baby?” he asked, jumping up to embrace her. “Now, don’t do that. Come on, give me a hug.”

He soothed her in Italian, speaking of the polenta he had made for her that morning. He wheeled her to the dining room. Later, he would serenade her.

But in the night, again he could not sleep for worry. He fingered drafts of his own petitions, hand-lettered pages that he debated sending to nursing home administrators. One was addressed “To God and to whom it may concern.”

“I’m trapped in a web of people and lawyers that will exhaust my 50 years of sacrifices and savings,” he wrote. “Please, dear God, grant me strength and wisdom to take care of my wife.”

If not now, then when?

Love Is The Best Medicine & The Soul Of A Farmer
By Lisa

I would describe Jatayu’s situation as being similar to watering a garden with roundup. Dying a slow death.

He has been a farmer and lived on fresh vegetables his whole life. In tune with nature, in touch with the seasons, one with the outdoor world. Almost every day of his adult life in contact with sunshine, fresh air.

Now he lives on a diet of prescription drugs, confined in a small hospital room where fluorescent lighting has replaced the sun, and the stale, cold recycled air is filled with sickness and death. There are no birds or trees and you never see the sky. There is constant, amplified, artificial, surround sound disturbing noises coming from all directions that even ear plugs would not allow one to escape.

They keep him sedated to keep him calm. Yes he has a heart condition, but he doesn’t like having to take to take ten different drugs or endure their severe and countless side effects.

He enjoyed the carrot juice I brought for him but was so weak he could barely hold the cup to drink it. We joked that I didn’t grow the carrots but I juiced them. We wanted to take him for a walk outside, in a wheelchair, a little fresh air after almost 3 weeks in this environment. But the nurse said no. That they didn’t want to stimulate him because he could get upset. I would be more than upset in his condition too. So we opted for a few slow laps around the nurses stations on his floor. He brightened up as we began softly chanting while we walked. Passing door after door, you could not avoid seeing or hearing the sufferings of his neighboring patients. He said he had seen it all since he had been there. Even though a few of the nursing staff were exceptionally joyful and happy to see him, it was a sliver of light in what could be the scene of a twilight zone nightmare movie.

Once you are in this system, you may never get out. I’ve worked in nursing homes before. With all its good intentions and well meaning staff, the patients were kept sedated too, because there wasn’t enough personalism to meet their needs if they were too functional. Many of them wanted to die than live in this kind of hellish prison. I could understand why. I would too. After a few months of seeing the inside of an elder home system and crying myself to sleep on a nightly basis with the sadness I felt, not being able to really help the residents, I quit and went into private duty caregiving, where I could have more personal care and time with the elderly in need.

Jatayu was functional but barely. He has round the clock supervision and is definitely not able to care for himself. He was shaky, unsteady, and had a risk of falling sign on his door and wristband, likely due to the medication. He said there is not much personalism in there and was confused why they can’t they pay the staff more to give better care. His room was a mess and he lacked proper warm clothes and a suitcase. I understand that his state of mind at the time of his car accident was in rough shape, and that all of his possessions are in mixed chaos in his van.

Devaki dd had brought him a cd player, headphones and chanting music to listen to, but the staff don’t have time or interest to manage helping him play it and he thought the batteries had died. So it just sat on his bedside table unused. I asked him what was his favorite kirtan music and he said Prabhupada chanting. So I pulled up one of Prabhupada’s YouTube videos on my phone and played it next to his ear as he laid in bed. He smiled, started crying saying Prabhupada, Prabhupada and soon drifted to sleep.

As my friend Gajendra and I prepared to leave, we leaned over to whisper goodbye. He started to cry again as he expressed to us how grateful he was we came to visit him and began telling us about Haridas Thakur in relation to Sri Chaitanya, how the company of devotees is the most meaningful thing in life.

He said being in a place like that, on so many medications, with no exercise or sunshine makes you wither away. He didn’t think he has long to live and wants to die in the company of devotees. He said he has never suffered like this before and you could tell the experience has left him with a heavy heart, a fragile body and a confused mind.

I left the hospital with my own deep sadness and confusion. How is it possible that there is no solid, functioning, fully funded Krishna Conscious, devotee living option, center(s), for those in need, whether senior citizens, hospice care, disabled, homeless? A kind of spiritual retirement farm of low income or high means, anywhere in Alachua, in Florida, in the US or the entire world? Those residents with means would pay for care and help offset the expenses of those who could not pay.

Jatayu was moved to a senior care center in St. Pete today for rehab, but I don’t think that’s the kind of rehab that will help him. He wants to stay where there is devotee association.

I am aware and very much appreciate what Gurudas, Aradhana and locally, Devaki of the Vedic Care Charitable Trust is trying to do in this arena. It’s an enormous task and the best and only program it seems that is even addressing this issue in the devotee community. But as wonderful as it is, unfortunately they are not receiving adequate support. Is it possible that we can organize a meeting in Alachua with the VCC team to expedite a plan for increasing their resources, organization and funding?

If I am incorrect in my understanding, that there is no established care home or center, anywhere in the world, at this time, where a devotee like Jatayu would be welcomed, cared for and able to live out the rest of his life in peace, with dignity, in the association and protection of devotional caregivers, would someone please contact us with this information.

With the population of aging devotees growing, why isn’t this kind of service or facility a foundational priority, to uphold the core principals of Krishna Consciousness pivotal to the mission Prabhupada stood for?

What is self sufficiency and sustainability that does not care for devotees in their darkest hour?

What is the point of having countless other types of worldwide spiritual projects if we are not able to provide the most basic caregiving, especially at the end of life?

Why not start teaching our children the importance of self sufficiency, that includes increased awareness around death and dying through intergenerational living programs that train and employ younger caregivers, and farmers?

When I first came to the Alachua community more than 10 years ago, I was most inspired by the simple living, high thinking teachings of the Krishna philosophy. I had never heard of any religion or spiritual organization with this focus, and I had never met a spiritual farmer.

Meeting Jatayu and having a direct, real world experience of these combined principals for conscious living was a core element in furthering my association with the temple and devotees, and I would say a pivotal reason I am still here. It gave me a kind of optimism that there really were people on this planet that had an understanding of the right ways to live in harmony with the Earth while seeking God.

It was a natural step to connect with Jatayu. His bright and bubbly personality mixed with his dedication for returning to natural farming was impactful. He lived and breathed having his hands in the soil and I had a longstanding desire for living in a spiritual, green community. He was always at the temple every Sunday with tables full of produce he had picked that morning. He wanted an ox and told stories of his early days as a devotee farmer. It didn’t take long for us to realize our combined talents and optimism would be able to advance his efforts and greater outreach for organic produce education, and I soon joined his farm to create and manage his first Community Supported Agriculture/CSA farm program.

Soon after that, because of him, I started my first real garden. We laughed at how the deer ate the whole thing, right before harvest time, before I could. From there I grew a multitude of new endeavors and ideas, diving even deeper into connecting gardening and healthier living. My kitchen also became an indoor garden (deer proof) where I experimented and watched in wonder as new things came to life, and turned them into everything from kale chips, hummus, kombucha and wheatgrass juice to fermented vegetables and seed butters. And there were always talks and dreams of having a cottage industry farm business in the devotee community.

Working with Jatayu was the most meaningful right livelihood job experiences I have ever had. One that gave me a new lease on life I wanted to share with the world. I watched in awe as the public and devotees alike sprouted new energy and vitality every time we would set up the vegetable stand, both at the temple and local farmers markets. It brought people together and gave them something to believe in, formed lasting friendships, it motivated a priority for better health, it raised awareness about natural living, a vegetarian diet, Krishna. It was a place many stood in line to talk with Jatayu about farming as they filled their baskets with a rainbow of fresh living foods to feed their families. But more than that, I witnessed them filling and feeding their hearts with hope in something deeper than words can describe. There was an air of truth that became evident in this space, where Krishna smiled and gave his blessing. I miss this time and I miss the Jatayu that I witnessed bringing vibrance, life, love, hope and meaning into the lives of many. I will always remember with great affection, the effect he had on my life.

People may ask, what about this mistake he made, or this thing he didn’t do. I do not judge these things, that is Krishna’s job. But I do want to honor his efforts and successes where he invested his entire life. I think we all would like that people remember the good we did in the world instead of finding judgement with our faults.
I make this plea for his welfare, to create a path of gratitude, returning our appreciation for what he did do to bring attention and real world application to Prabhupada’s mission for self sufficient farm communities.

We may have lost the ability to have him serve as a role model and teacher for devotional farming, but we should not lose the lessons of the seeds he planted.

His heartbreaking circumstance shines light on a beautiful opportunity and raises important questions that can’t be ignored. I can’t help but ask, if this need is not seriously addressed now, then when?

In service,
Hare Krishna

Micro Farming and the ‘Vedic Compost’

Why Ploughing is Detrimental to Health
A comparative study made by Good Gardeners International
(reg. Charity 255300)

Radha Krsna das ACBSP

Note: all comparative photos in this article were taken at the same time in the same year, 2017.

I was walking with the field agronomist on the neighbouring 42 ha. field yesterday at Shenley Park and discussing with him how modern agriculture has bred three fourths of the fertiliser out of their own crops. “How?” he said, “Because they have bred short straw varieties which were originally four feet high” I replied.

Yes, I can remember on my Father’s farm the grain used to sway in the wind up to four feet high and we didn’t have the lodging problem experienced by so many farmers, because they added too much nitrogen trying to always get maximum gain out of the soil.

They claim they have bred short straw varieties to increase yield and because of lodging. This is the falling over of the grain and rotting in the field due to high winds and heavy rainfall. But the truth is that they have tried to exploit too high a yield by adding too much nitrogen. This in turn weakens the plant and the top heavy grain ears weigh down and will collapse when high winds or heavy rains come. Previous long stem varieties did not lodge because they had no artificial nitrogen added and because the soil structure was good and the roots went down to a much greater depth. Today’s root structure and quality of grain, of the modern varieties, leave much to be desired.

The deep mouldboard plough was invented in the west to turn Prairie into arable land. It only needs to be used once to do this, then with proper soil management it is not needed again.

The claim is that heavy land has to be ploughed to lighten it up, to allow the frost in to break up the soil and to improve drainage. After this operation, which incidentally brings up stones from the shale layer, in soils that have a lower shale layer, from the thousands of years natural formation from the rock substrate below and which have unnaturally been brought to the surface. These stones would naturally be converted into top soil by the natural action of time and weather if only left alone. On the surface they form like concrete with the heavy clay that has also been brought up by the plough.

You can order with this link from the UK here. It is essential that you send us your email address and a mobile phone number in order to receive our quoted much reduced postal charges for delivery to your nearest drop shop (UK).

After ploughing which on heavy soils brings clay to the surface too, you have to further cultivate the soil by discing and harrowing and because you have brought so much air into the system you have then to roll it to compress in the seed that you sow, so as to make a good capillary action, or wicking action, to get soil moisture to make contact with the seed. None of this is necessary with the No Dig Good Gardening and farming system.

The opposite is actually true when you plough. You destroy the soil structure and destroy the crumb structure of the soil. The crumb structure is the space between each soil particle that is crushed by the heavy iron plough. (Kali Yuga is the age of iron and steel and concrete) Ploughing with the iron plough also destroys the soil structure, or the soil profile, the delicate formation of channels and pathways created by the myriad of wildlife present in healthy soil and the appropriate layers of decomposing surface organic matter that falls on the surface (Nature). This also destroys the miraculous drainage capacity offered by these creatures. Waterlogging can be the result which kills the roots of plants. Ploughing cools the earth down rather than warming it up, as it exposes the lower layers to the atmosphere and wind and rain get in thus cooling it down. Each half a degree in temperature decrease affects subsequent crop germination. The frost gets in rather than being kept out by the insulating properties of a good mulch cover from the previous harvest which is left on the surface with a dressing of compost. So over winter you get a much colder start for the crops, which slows down germination and inhibits the ultimate harvest potential.

“You should clean the soil after a harvest”. This is the western concept and takes away the valuable worm food that worms thrive on and digest – but they can only do this when it is in a rotten condition. Life comes from Life. And decaying life forms the basis for that which is about to take birth again. (recycling)

Not only that. Earthworms are killed by the heavy metal plough that cuts deep through the soil and turns over the turf to bury the weeds. Birds pick off large numbers too (if worms are present) And if you don’t use weed killer, the plough cuts the weed roots up and spreads them more and more for the coming years. Thus making a toxic carpet of often sour weeds, which do not improve the land, rather they make it sour (Howard) and take away the sweetness that is afforded by good soil management.

Those worms that aren’t killed or picked off by birds have all their worm eggs displaced, which causes chaos in the subterranean world which must be a consideration for a true environmentalist who does not wish to see Nature or wildlife unnaturally disturbed and should be encouraged to proliferate at their natural rate. The saying goes. One year seeded, seven years weeded.

If you plough this again in the spring to get rid of these weeds you will end up with crops smothered and inhibited by even more weeds

This all increases the acidity of the soil and lowers the population of the humble earth worm which is trying to do its natural job in Nature by breeding prolifically by greatly improving drainage and increasing fertility with their worm casts. They also take down decomposing organic matter to the right depth for further decomposition and will survive and breed in profusion if the soil is kept warm and undisturbed.

On our farm we have worms breeding all the year round in our undisturbed soil and we are trying to achieve what Howard called ‘Land in good heart’. Howard worked with Darwin on this and they claimed that you can have as many as 16 million earthworms per acre in really fertile soil.

Agriculturalsciencetellsusthatworms produce five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and eleven times more potassium than is found in surrounding soil.

(Lady Eve Balfour, The Living Soil, nine editions and co founder of the Soil Association). Providing a mulch cover over winter if it can be found or afforded really warms up the earth even more and you can visibly see the myriad of worm castings under these mulching sheets when they are lifted. So by actively decreasing worms populations by ploughing and cooling down their breeding grounds we are decreasing the natural productivity of the soil. So what do we do? Add tons and tons of cow dung in a raw compressed state with undecomposed straw in it. This is a classic example of overworking the soil (Howard, Lost Science of Organic Cultivation) and expecting it to digest this material and at the same time grow a crop. (Howard) It especially can’t digest this raw material when it is being turned upside down and placed in anaerobic conditions which prevents the faster action of aerobic decomposition above ground. Worms only eat vegetation that has got to a certain state of decomposition. They do not eat living plants or fresh vegetation (Lord Brahma).

The answer to this major dilemma is composting which is the fastest way to get the waste materials including sanitation waste into the right condition to be digested by earthworms so that the next crop can be grown without overworking the soil. With this HH-2 equipment you can include all cooked and uncooked food waste, left over Prasad etc., This all falls within modern day health and safety regulations because the system is rat proof and fly proof and there is no run off.

If you put raw organic matter on infertile soil nothing will happen or if you dispose of it in the woods it will just stay there and attract rats. Fifth Canto says All things from the Earth should be returned to the Earth. But we understand this to mean in the right condition.

Consider the Earth like a child. If you don’t properly feed a child it will not develop into its full capacity. If you feed a child properly it will have full cognitive development and develop to his or her full capacity (Crawford, Institute of Brain Chemistry).

This nutrition will set us up for life and will greatly help us in old age. Good nutrition will ensure we have a far less painful exit from this world. So actually to improve the health of the population who live on the produce of the soil we must not plough it. Ploughing also destroys the mycorrhiza fungi that transfer the nutrients from soil to the root hairs of crops (Dr. Claire Rayner, 1931) Once ploughed this fungi takes two years to re-establish itself (Rodale Institute, USA, 2014). These are the scientific results of compost farming. Also a report by DEFRA, UK, 2007 says that the keeping power of vegetables is dependant upon their mineral content. We have kept courgettes for three months or more.

We see in the ancient literature of India Lord Balaram has been casually leaning on his scratch plough throughout all eternity, this must surely tell us something. It is made easy for us in picture form. He is not pictured holding a mouldboard plough. He is holding a scratch plough. Not only was the scratch plough used for killing demons, but he used it to till the ground to produce grains by trundling over the surface of the ground and Krsna took care of the cows and the milking of the cows. It’s all in the Hare Krsna mantra…. It is said everything is contained within this mantra.

Health comes from the soil. We are what we eat. We read in the fourth canto that minerals and fertilisers come from the hills. This means from extinct volcanoes where there are outcrops of Basalt rock which contain 72 listed minerals and trace elements (Good Gardeners,1968). Today the soils of the world are depleted and lacking in these constituents therefore to replenish soil and our health we must seek out these valuable commodities and engage them in the service of the Lord and His devotees. Otherwise why is this included in the Srimad Bhagavatam? If we treat the soil badly, we treat ourselves badly. Mother Nature is the shadow of the Supreme Lord.

Volcanic rock dust is part of our formulation of HH-4, A PLANT

We have the backing of spiritual authority (Srimad Bahagavatam) regarding the adding of minerals and fertilisers and not to dig the soil but rather use scratch implements (pictured left). These implements only till the very surface of the soil, thus not destroying soil structure, soil crumb structure or worm drainage channels. This is extremely scientific and Howard called it The Post Graduate study of Agriculture. It is now becoming the prefered method of modern sustainable farmers all over the world.

We also have the material authority… of top London doctors namely professor Michael Crawford who is chair of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and of the Mother and Child Foundation
Professor Crawford came to visit our farm with his men and fully supports our methods of agriculture. He ran a hospital in Uganda for thirty years and they were doing a similar system as we are today. He also tells us that they were adding the sewage residues, after processing, back to the land. This is also what Srila Prabhupada said we should do. This is listed in a previous paper. ‘The Tollygunge Compost Factory’. Which was presented to the entire GBC,. in 1995 on my discovery of Howard’s work.

Professor Crawford’s contention is that if the nutritional content of our food decreases, as it has because our soils are depleted, what we can expect is poorer and poorer states of mental health. This he says in his lectures, is the world’s greatest fear. Only by proper recycling and good gardening and agricultural methods can these nutrient levels be reinstated and maintained. The professor’s comment on our farm was “What you are doing is in a sense revolutionary and at the same time traditional.” see this link to HH-2

Crop increases and weed decreases with no digging

Howard always said that you can get 300% increase in crop production with this method of fertility making. This we have seen time and time again on our humble one acre demo farm and it is achieved with surface cultivation for weed control.

If you want to scale this up as I mention in my release of The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation you either need more people or more machines but you can’t do it with neither.

His Holiness Smita Krsna maharaj and

His Grace Gurudas visit the Well End project.

So there we have it. Don’t plough the soil for all these reasons. Because a quick fix to heavy cropping is the desire, regardless to the condition of the land it is on a parallel with modern industrial farming and this is talked about in the famous book by Jacks and White of 1939.

If one man owns hundreds of acres and farms it with one man on a tractor he will make loads of money, only made possible by exploiting the blood of the earth (oil). Because modern civilization is trying to exploit all the resources of material Nature and always get maximum gain by overworking the soil and by adding chemicals (also oil based products) he is not considering the future of fertility IE., for his children and their children. This is the road to starvation. And Howard says ‘the time of reckoning is not far off.’ As soil depletes all over the world by bad agricultural practice and loss of valuable carbon through ploughing – millions of tons of topsoil are lost each year. This will lead to poverty and suffering. People move to cities in vast numbers as they cannot see a way to make a living off the land. This is encouraged by the industrialists and architects etc., This will not help as where is sufficient food going to come from to feed the growing population? It comes from the soil. It is only shortsightedness and the greed to control people, land and seed production etc., that will cause the suffering of the future.

View over our Well End farm

If there is no one to take responsibility for the land and produce food in a sustainable way no amount of intellectuals will save you.

If mankind cannot devise and enforce ways of dealing with the Earth, which will preserve the source of life, we must look forward to a time, remote though it may be, yet clearly discernible when our kind having wasted its inheritance will fade from the earth because of the ruin it has accomplished. (Professor N.S. Shaler, Harvard University, 1896)

The prediction of Lord Caitanya is that the chanting of Hare Krsna will spread to every town and village.

If we do come to understand the importance of the soil as the substratum of all that is living as depicted by the authorities we have mentioned we will be able to prosper both in physical and mental health and have longer in this body to develop our relationship with Krishna.

We hope the word will spread that we are offering this facility to all temples so they can create a space where this kind of farming can go on to produce food of the highest quality that may be offerable to Krsna.

It is our desire as Good Gardeners of the soul and of this planet to help support the Vedic Care Charity ( and provide the devotees of the Lord who have given their lives to serve the mission of Lord Caitanya with a peaceful and caring atmosphere in which they can leave this world and go back to Krsna.

The Living Soil, Lady Eve Balfour, nine editions, 1943, is considered a seminal classic in organic agriculture and the organic movement.

The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation by Sir Albert Howard and Radha Krsna das, 1996 an update of Howard’s earlier work entitled the Waste Products of Agriculture, 1931

The Rape of the Earth, Jacks and White, 1939, references to how ploughing caused the dust bowls of the USA.

Ploughmans Folly, Edward Faulkner, 1951, seven editions
Support by Professor Crawford, President of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and the Mother and Child Foundation, Imperial College London.

Srimad Bhagavatam, Krsna-Dvaipayana Vyasa.

A ‘Vedic Care’ Success Story

Hare Krsna dear Gurudas Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

In August you visited and lived in our house. You gave
a lecture on Harinam, and a few lectures in our
temple in …

My little daughter is ill and our business felt apart. I hope you remember us. I thought of you so many times. I remember how you held my hands and prayed for me while I was crying.

I do not know how to express my thankfulness that you treated me in such a personal and human way. Even from last year my memories were that you are so personal, with you I felt like with my family. Many devotees were nice to me when they found out we were in such difficult time, but for me you are totally extraordinary because I felt extraordinary care and endeavor to understand me and feel with me. Such warmth coming from you.

And I wanted to write you this, that your approach is so deeply carved in my heart. Even if I was not able to meet you again, you left such impression on me that I will remember that till the end of my life.

Thank you for showing us what it means to be a Vaishnava.
I am so grateful I got to know you. Wishing you all the best!

Your servant,
… devi dasi

Devotee’s names and place are omitted for privacy.

Gurudas is the Founder of the Vedic Care Charity ~

Where is the Love and Trust?

by Aradhana devi dasi

I recently watched the great black and white movie by Frank Capra, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with James Stewart. Frank said that James Stewart’s appeal was that he was unusually usual; we can’t help but love him and the parts he plays.

In this particular movie, James plays an average guy with great aspirations. Unfortunately, he’s unable to achieve what he sets out to, but in the end, he achieves so much more, and is dearly loved and cared for by the community. It’s very inspiriting. Even God has a voice in the movie and is guiding events; such a rarity in movies today. It’s definitely one I’d recommend.

As a filmmaker, I keep up with what’s happening in the film business, and sadly what the industry has mostly been promoting over the last 30 to 40 years is atrocious. My husband (writer/director) and I (actor/producer) are set to make movies that will inspire again, that will empower and enlighten the masses, in the hopes of bringing them close to God; even if it only reminds them that God is something to actually be considered, it will be a success. We’ve created ~ what we hope will become ~ a great film studio, Yoga-Maya Entertainment.

But why do I ask about the Love and Trust?

‘Love and Trust’ is disappearing from our entire society, and not only from society at large, but even in our spiritual communities ‘Love and Trust’ is becoming very rare. In ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ this ‘Love and Trust’ is real and thrilling.

So what happened to humanity and it’s ‘Love and Trust’?

In my humble opinion, we’ve been bombarded and manipulated by leaders who’ve mostly been trained as lawyers, and whose business thrives by a lack of trust and increased conflict. This, in x trust, and in this way it permeates every culture and society, including the spiritual ones. People are stressed, tired, abused and constantly cheated and cannot therefore trust one another. Without trust, there is no love, and without love, there is no care.

Since the inception of the Vedic Care Charity ( nearly two years ago, the Vaishnava community have been extremely skeptical and some even averse to our Devotee Care endeavor. A few well-wishers and trustees have asked: What is there to be skeptical about? We just want to assist, serve and care for devotees in need, and most importantly, we want to bring back the ‘Love and Trust’ in our hearts and society.

Sadly, and most unfortunately, the VCC is still being challenged today. Serving under these conditions is already hard, before adding the small amount of funds available to lend assistance to all the devotees we know are in need right now; really, it’s not even possible, were it not for the VCC team being full-time volunteers.

The VCC have not only been threatened with unfounded law suits, and been called scammers in online forums, but we’ve received ‘demands’ for open accountability with heavy undertones of accusation. As a charity we comply with all legal requirements, of course, but we’d so much prefer being approached in a more respectable manner; not charged as guilty before even starting.

I was expecting a more personal welcome; somehow, to be given the benefit of the doubt and treated in a caring, more forward thinking way. We never expected being talked to in an incriminatory and threatening way. It’s as if some are just waiting for a little mistake to bring the house down.

On the other hand, when ‘Love and Trust’ is the norm, with all our 1134 ‘likes’ (today) on ‘The Vedic Care’ Facebook page giving a little monthly (sadly not the case at this time), we’d be able to run our website and outreach teams so nicely, giving the reactive and urgent care needed now.

So, we’re left with a few questions still:

Where did the love, care and trust go? How can we relate to one another as spiritual seekers when there’s so much animosity? Have we forgotten that love and trust is actually what makes a community successful? Have we forgotten that love and care is the light that inspires us to truly help one another in times of difficulty?

The Vedic Care Charity will keep going, as we strive to serve Srila Prabhupada and his mission, trusting that we will actually create our VCC model facility; a place to welcome devotees in their later years who are unable to care for themselves. We already have a number of devotees lined up for our model facility in the USA, and we hope to accommodate so many more through the fulfillment of our other wonderful plans.

In closure, I must share our puzzlement, that in almost two years of full-time work, building and promoting the obvious, urgent and real need for care in our society, and that, with high hopes of bringing back the ‘Love and Trust’ the society once had, there have been few sincere inquiries as to the nature of our personal health, spiritual or material needs. Although this is heartbreaking news, we’ll continue, happily and with enthusiasm; confident that Srimati Radharani and Srila Prabhupada will bless us with success in our endevours to manifest this so needed service.

It’s a wonderful life, indeed.

The ‘Vedic Care’ Benefit at Tantris, LA -June 3rd, 2017

An artistic and enlivening afternoon, for the benefit of others

Gurudas (Roger Siegel), Aradhana (Ana Lucia Alves) and Russel Simmons will be welcoming all of you at Tantris on June, 3rd 2017 at 2pm for a exotic and colorful festival, a conversation about spirituality today and the need for a strong spiritual community where all souls are valued, welcomed and cared for.

A Vegan Feast, Exotic Yogic Art, Spiritual Sounds (Live Kirtan) with Clytie Lane Nolte, Bhardraj das and Kausaliya devi dasi, Epic Pictures, Epic Pictures, Pure Incense and Spiritual books will be available for your pleasure and enlightenment. Also a non-permanent tattoo (Mehndi – body art) will be offered.

Spiritual Seekers and transcendentalists often find themselves in financial trouble in their later days, mostly due to their lack of interest in materialistic lifestyles. The ‘Vedic Care’ [VCC a 501(c)3 Charity] main mission is to assist these personalities who have dedicated a great part of their lives to the well-being of others, sacrificing finances, family and friends to be of service. In this spirit, we’re creating spiritually enhanced care facilities and communities, were respect, love and trust are primary.

This ‘Vedic Care’ Benefit Event is to assist the fundraising of our global endevours and model facility. Please see our short promo-video here. Further details on our Model facility here.

For tickets please click here.
Or please Donate Today

For more information on the ‘Vedic Care’ activities, please go to Thank you.

Hosting the Event

Gurudas (Roger Siegel) – VCC Founder and Trustee

Following his heart, Roger protested injustice by joining the civil rights struggle, becoming a staff member of the Northern Student Movement’s Harlem education project. He was beaten and arrested many times for his beliefs.

He was also on the staff of The Henry Street Settlement, and other community centers. He also worked with visually impaired, mentally challenged and homeless populations.

After meeting Swami Bhaktivedanta and becoming his disciple in April, 1967 (now Gurudas) he was appointed president of the London Temple where he became friends with The Beatles, recording then “The Radha Krsna Temple” album with George Harrison; the album went straight onto the top of the charts.

He was later put in charge of the Krishna Balaram Temple project in Vrindavan. Gurudas then befriended the American ambassador, Kenneth Keating, and procured two tons of food for distribution in the Bangladesh refugee camps. This was the start of “Food for Life”.

Many people have expressed their gratitude for how Gurudas has cared for them, and now we are facilitating the Vedic Care Charitable Trust for more structured and stable care. He is also a photographer, professional counselor and certified Hypnotherapist.

Aradhana devi dasi (Ana Lucia Alves)
The ‘Vedic Care’ Co-Founder, Trustee & CEO

Ana left Brazil at nineteen to explore the world and seek spiritual enlightenment. As the great granddaughter of a native Brazilian Shaman, she never could accept mainstream spiritual paths that were so limiting to her sensibilities.

She worked for many years as a top model, actress and documentary filmmaker, learned four languages and achieved great material success. While based in Paris, she studied dramatic arts, got married becaming the “Chatelaine de Miolans’, and gave birth to a baby boy, Theo.

Ana first saw the ‘Hare Krishnas’ in Munich in 1988 and years later she was introduced to the yogic philosophy of Krishna consciousness. She finally joined the movement in Manhattan after receiving Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita in 2002. She accepted a Guru and became Aradhana devi dasi.

Today, Aradhana runs a film production company with her devotee husband. She is grateful for this opportunity to serve the spiritual community, helping to bring devotees together to create a health system for assisting all Vaishnavas and spiritual seekers in need. &


Russell Simmons
Founder of Tantris Yoga, Yogi & Entrepreneur

Born in New York City on October 4, 1957, Russell Simmons began promoting New York City musicians in his early 20s. He partnered with Rick Rubin to create Def Jam Records, and signed artists like the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C. He later sold his stake in Def Jam to Universal Music Group for $100 million. In addition to his music career, Simmons is an enormously successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. Lately Russell founded Trantis Yoga with its first location in Los Angeles.

Our Mission an Model Facility promo-video here.

Looking Into Elena’s Eyes

Looking Into Elena’s Eyes
May 1, 2017 | General, Mindful Caregiving, The Guest House
by Celeyce Matthews

“Elena” was very sad that morning. Her enormous watery eyes, framed by lush eyelashes stuck together with tears, stared starkly into mine as she lay sweaty and pale in her bed. I said, “You’re feeling a lot of sadness today Elena?” She responded with a simple, “Yes.” Sitting at her bedside I said, “I see your sadness. You must have a lot to be sad about. I’ve had a lot of sadness too, I understand what it’s like to feel very sad.” She perceptively responded in her slow, soft voice, “I think that in order for you to do this job you would have to understand sadness.” We sat together, our candid eyes meeting in that moment as tears ran down her face.

She continued to gaze into my eyes with the frank, unblinking stare I’ve received from many people as they approach their death in my work as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Zen Hospice Project’s Guest House in San Francisco. As is my practice is these moments, I relaxed my body and let my heart be in my eyes but without thrusting it upon her, just being with her sadness, and with my own, in gentle presence, caring and connection. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, just being together in reality. This is not easy, not comfortable, yet it is a deeply fulfilling honor, and a kind of relief and form of nourishment to strip away all surface and just be together as human beings alive and real, sitting together on the precipice of living and dying.

Only in her late 50s, Elena was a powerful, complex, beautiful woman. In my months of caring for her, bathing her, feeding her, listening to her, she shared some of her process with me with great articulation, intelligence, frankness, humor, anger, biting sadness, pain and kindness. Her words and her striking eyes shared, with all who cared for her, her raw and remarkable humanity.

One morning, weeks into her time with us, she suddenly awoke with a sense of alarm, startling me and her family in the room. “Where am I?!” she called out, sitting up abruptly, her huge eyes wide open with panic. I told her she was safe in her bed at the Zen Hospice Project’s Guest House. Stricken, she loudly cried, “Am I dying?!” Everyone in the room froze, her words stinging the air. “Well,” I said slowly, “Not right this minute, but yes, your illness is taking you in that direction.” We all stood motionless, holding our breath, as we watched her take in this information. “Oh,” she said simply, and seemed to remember and accept this reality. She relaxed and lay back, and began chatting with her husband.

We repeated this experience several times as her illness progressed and affected her memory. Each time Elena waking with the panic of disorientation and forgetting in her vivid eyes, then acceptance upon being reminded of her condition, and then moving forward with living. It was incredible to watch this process of fear, discovery and acceptance lived over and over again.

One night, late into my nightshift, Elena was struggling to breathe. She was literally drowning in the fluid that had rapidly accumulated in her lungs. Again she stared at me, her eyes wild in terror as she fought to take in air; I held her hand and sat close to her. The nurse had already given her medication to dry up the excessive secretions and calm her yet it hadn’t taken effect yet – there was nothing more we could medically do at that point but wait for the medication to work. Delusional and regressing in the direness of her illness and fear, she weakly grasped at my hand and managed to gurgle wetly: “Mommy don’t leave me!” I could feel my own anguish at her distress fill my heart; it’s horrible to watch someone drowning in their own fluid and to be totally helpless.

I did not turn away. Internally, I acknowledged my own fear and horror, and quieted my body and mind, and moved closer to her, holding us both tenderly in my heart. I told her that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I’d stay right there with her. “You promise Mommy?” “Yes Love, I promise,” I reassured her. I could only be with her, let her know that I care, and that I would not leave her as we waited for the medication to take effect. I stayed with her throughout the night, her eyes clinging desperately to mine, until she finally fell asleep, breathing much more easily.

She died about 30 hours later and again I was with her. Thankfully she was peaceful at the end. In her final minutes, her enormous, expressive eyes were still open, and she continued to move them very slowly, tracking movement around her. She was clearly drifting peacefully away, and yet she was awake and seemed to be aware and observant. Again she stared right into my eyes through her very last quiet breath. It was like I was falling into those fathomless eyes as her life retreated from them to somewhere I could not go, like following a vapor trail that dissolved into nothingness. She was gone; I remained, but touched forever by her eyes, gifted by the openness of her intense and vulnerable humanity.

In life, Elena evinced a close and compassionate understanding of suffering, and a gentle, sometimes sharp, sense of humor and irony. In death, her beautiful face settled into what, to me, looked like a subtle, wry half smile – as if she was saying, “Well, THAT happened.” Witnessing her living, dying and death, Elena showed me a very real process of continually integrating reality as it happened, and facing it head on with kindness, humor and honesty. She was a great teacher that I am profoundly honored to have been with – and I can still see her extraordinary eyes.

Celeyce Matthews is Certified Nursing Assistant at Zen Hospice Project’s Guest House

Love without conditions

In memory of Hadidjah Lamas
Renowned healer & musician – 1932-2016

By Vasanta Dasa – her husband

Hadidjah moved to LA from New York in the mid-1940’s when she was just a teenager. After UCLA she went to work with Hughes Aircraft in their aeronautical engineering dept.

I met Hadidjah in 1978shortly after I moved to California. At the time she had her healing practice set up in her home off Sunset Blvd. She was one of the senior students of Ida Rolf, who developed the style of deep-tissue massage & structural integration known today as “Rolfing”.


In time she became fairly well known. Her clients included Ava Gardener, Angelina Jolie, and John DeLorean. At some point she discovered a unique gift .. and that was to be able to assess a patient’s situation simply by touch. Basically she could touch you, figure out what the problem was, and fix it. No incision. No pain. No muss. No fuss. Usually within an hour session. Her patients would occasionally comment that they felt an electrical sensation from her fingers. Clients traveled from all over the country to see her.

Aside from her practice, Hadidjah was an accomplished musician in piano, recorder, and viola. Her preferred instrument was piano. She kept a Steinway Grand in her study on Bentley Ave. and played it regularly. She was also alert to health matters, ate only organic meals, and read extensively. She adored Nikola Tesla.

When we first met I was living in Palms with the New Age Caucus, an environmental action group formed by Madhudvisa, Dharmadyaksa, Damodara, Bahulasva and myself. As a demonstration project, I engineered and built a solar-assisted electric motorcycle. The solar cells we used were provided by Hadidjah’s [then] husband. This is how we first saw each other.

However, I lost track of Hadidjah when I moved to Hawaii and then later to Alachua, Florida. For over twenty years I did not know where she was or if she knew how to find me.

In 2006 when I planned to return to California, I went online and looked for her. We met again in December, 2006, just before the New Year. We then remained together for the next ten years. We traveled to northern California several times and briefly considered moving to Eureka. Her practice was still active, however, so we remained in west Los Angeles.

We had a lot of contactwith the Los Angeles Krishna Temple in Culver City (aka: New Dwarka). Hadidjah and I went to Govindas hundreds of times and also attended at least three LA Rathayatra festivals in Venice Beach.

At some point her health began to falter. She had an enlarged heart. No big surprise here since she was at least ninety percent heart and served others without question almost to a fault (in other words: people took advantage of her generosity and kindness).

About three years ago Hadidjah had reached a point where she could not really care for herself. She had also stopped eating regularly. After her weight dropped to a certain point we realized that she needed 24 hour care. We then placed her in a series of nursing homes & extended care facilities until we found one closer to us in Santa Monica that we were pleased with.

So this was the state2-Festival-Cow-4 of affairs in about 2014. I had returned to Culver City and bicycling daily to Santa Monica with prasadam, garlands, and recorded music. I probably cycled over 1,500 miles in the years to follow. By Krishna’s grace I was introduced to Gurudas and Aradhana Devi of the Vedic Care Charitable Trust (VCC). This group went way out of their way to support Hadidjah’s care. I cannot say enough good things about the VCC ..these people are first-class.

Without the support of the devotees and my friends I would not have managed to do very well at all during this time. Every day was an effort: get up, cook lunch, go to Santa Monica, and try to return before rush hour traffic. Do this daily no matter what. However, with the kindness and effort of the VCC, I somehow managed. Both Aradhana & Gurudas personally visited with Hadidjah, just two of a handful of devotees to do so.

We decorated her room with LOTS of spiritual paintings and photos, with the goal that no matter where she looked she would see something transcendental.

On December 5, 2016 late in the evening Hadidjah’s heart stopped and she left this world. My trips to Santa Monica came to an end. 12 days later, on December 17, a Memorial Service was held for her in the temple under the guidance of Rabindranatha prabhu. On January 14, Hadidjah’s ashes were placed in the Yamuna River in Vrindavan by local brahmanas & Kriya Shakti devi.

I am blessed that Hadidjah and I were able to spend a little time together in this life. I never met a more qualified and generous soul. You meet someone like this once every two thousand years. Maybe. We never fought or had an argument once in the whole time we were together. And we talked about everything under the sun.

My life has become much simpler now – particularly living in a 70 ft2 cabin out in the country. The loudest noise is an occasional motorcycle going down a highway a few blocks away. Otherwise I just hear bird calls and crickets. Now I am sorting out the ‘remnants’ of the marriage. Most of all this now sits in a storage unit waiting to be sorted out and either kept or discarded.

The key remnant from Hadidjah, of course, lives in my heart. I sincerely hope she is in a better place now. I did all that I could.

Thank you,

Vasanta dasa, ACBSP


For information on the VCC, please visit