Tag Archives: #devoteecare

Peace is preferable to War

San Franscisco, June 2nd, 2018.

After 50 years of service to Krishna and Prabhupad I am saddened by the divisiveness of his family.

I am tired of the sectarianism, that separates rather then unites us.
We can do so much if we cooperate with the principals that Prabhupad gave us.

There are so many devotees feeling alone and apart. These schisms are based on adopting body consciousness which boxes people into surface identities that separates us.

Krishna’s variety encourages celebrating our differences rather than hating the unknown… This is counterproductive and not Vedic, which encourages sanatan dharma,  which transcends and supersedes this mundane thinking.

When so many people are trying to serve Krishna but in slightly different ways, instead of conflict on the mental platform, we can cooperate better. In other words, why can’t we get along?

We started as a growing family and helped Prabhupad and yes we grew because Krishna blessed our endeavors. We grew on the simple principal – das and das and “love and trust”.

As we grew like all movements and groups, some get titles, property wealth, false adoration, e.g. power. These hard hearted devotees take advantage of the soft hearted adherents. Many over the years have ignored our principals, so much so that changes were made to Prabhupad’s words, ideals and plans.

The soft hearted ones are true bhaktas and bhaktis as we were devotees and not business people per se. Of course all types are needed, but the merchant Vaisha types took advantage of the simple Brahmin devotees.

So I have seen this phenomena before: The beginning zeal and idealism tarnish into complacency and power struggles based on the ego false separations; but even the Bhagavad Gita started on a battle field, so it is under Krishna’s purview and these quarrels are material nature. But we could and should know better.

Prabhupad was our example on good manners and good management.

So I am sadden by so many mistakes and even insidious acts over the years, a far cry from Vaishnava ethics and behavior. Yet we have evolved and despite the mistakes, the broken marriages, the mistreatment of woman, children and men… Yes, also impersonalism in the guise of personalism and complacency.

Yet we have started farms, restaurant and schools, etc etc. etc. and grew in spite of a somewhat dysfunctional family, we are. We have grown. And as I travel around the world, I see great hope for our movement and our future. And any movement is made up of individuals. E.G: The army uniform and the person in the army are different. People and governments etc.

So we devotees, as individuals have rebelled against bad behavior, and carried on our Sadhana practices, which transcends sectarianism; we persevere through troubled waters, resolute in purpose, Bhakti Yoga or Love for Radha and Krishna; Our unified goal. And if we love them, then we can love others here on this planet, seeing into hearts and souls rather then dwelling on surface bodily perceptions.

So many devotees have left the ashrams and communities and forged ahead on their own. It is challenging to be transcendent of the material world (as we know better) when we are in the midst of nescience.

That is why community is important.

And yes, we have grown and yes, started so may projects including planetariums, but neglected one thing and that is devotee care.
So I started the idea and some very sincere souls coalesced together to help me actually begin to care by identifying those devotees who are isolated and poor and neglected – after years of service – by the insensitive authorities.

So by Krishna’s, Radarani’s,  Prabhupad’s  and Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s blessings and empowerment I started out. Planting the message of devotee care. Aradhana Devi Dasi, a once successful model and actress reached out to become our C.E.O. and together we formed the Vedic Care Charity.

We have ambassadors and well wishers all over the world, and we’re grateful. We have many amazing carers and doctors,  we’ve a few competent Administrators, and Matthew J. Morreale is our office affairs assistant.

But even today as we are helping people, we are mistrusted and sometimes attacked or more often, met with complacent interaction waiting for each other to support us.
Lots of lip service but few real supporters.
I believe in deeds not words.
So we are caring for people today, when many devotees who have served for many years are neglected and are kicked out of the temples, put out to pasture or thrown on the garbage heap of callous society,  alone,  and afraid.

We at the V.C.C., are here for you!

We have trained professionals who are doing out-reach now. Caitania Priya dd and Chaitanya Swarup das are caring personally and running our medical front: and with Rama Narashima das (UK), Mathura Lila (Canada), Devaki dd &  Stritama dasi  (Florida),  Bhagavati dd (Belgium), Prashanti dasi (Texas), Ram Tulasi das &  Ananda Shakti dd (Oregon),  Gopaswami das & Krishna Caranaravinda dd (France), Jaya Krishna das (Florida), Vasanta das (California), Heather Holman (Arizona) and Bhakti das (NY);  they are all carers or trained counselors facilitating this project.

We’ve helped fifty devotees in great need in the past two years alone, some for much longer. To mention a few: Mahananda das (ACBSP), Krsna Pryia dd, Caruhasa dasa (ACBSP)Mahaksha das (ACBSP), Ishan Chaitanya das, Bhakti Vasudeva Swami (Iskcon), Manohara dd, Jatayu das (ACBSP) and many more who prefer not to be mentioned.

Now we are working towards our first retirement village and care facility in Sedona, Arizona.

Please come to our seminars and please donate your time or funds (Lakxmi).

Thank you very much,

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
Lisa

Travels with Gurudas in Europe

Travels with Gurudas in Europe

By Gurudas, edited by Anata Sesa das

Bhakta Chaitanya Swami met me in Montreal for a festival of India, and he invited me to the summer festival in Lithuania. Since I experienced other festivals in The Ukraine, and Czech Republic, I agreed to go with him. At the other festivals, I was impressed with the enthusiasm, discipline and receptiveness of the participants. 
As a result, I asked if I could go to the Czech Republic as well. I had visited there four times previously, and had many friends in that part of the world. The trip was arranged, and the challenges in traveling became lighter due to the grace and mercy of Krishna and Prabhupada.

I met Prabhupada when he came west. Working together, we started, formed, and built the beginning foundation of Krishna consciousness in the Western world and then internationally. We started with nothing– just the Swamiji. We had no tulsi beads, mridanga’s, kartals, prayers books, elders to learn from, no movement, no money or anything. What we had was the Swami who gave us the Vedic culture. Prabhupada once said, ” I gave them something tangible–the Vedic culture.”

As I experienced Krishna’s love inside and out, I wished to give both Radha and Krishna’s love to everyone. This love is present whenever I see new temples, with old familiar photos of my parampara gurus, beautiful decorated Deities, and Prabhupada sitting there regally. I feel that divine love in other places half way around the world when devotees speak the same language through prayers, bhajans, kirtans and service attitudes.

Prabhupada gave me the principal das anu das, which means, we serve each other with love. Due to this principle, I want to see the successes of my spiritual family.
 Therefore, when I see progress such as Govinda’s restaurants, bakeries, farms,  prasadam factories, beekeepers, children, people hugging, people smiling, people ecstatically dancing with an attitude to serve,  it brings joy to my heart.
 In spite of growing pains, and some mismanagement, I see ongoing progress of Krishna consciousness in the West.

This was the wish of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati. The essence is the same as when Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu changed people’s lives through the Maha Mantra. His efforts brought the holy names to every town, village and country. All of this was accomplished because of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and it is still going on


.

After landing in Latvia, we were met with smiles respect and garlands. We rode to Riga, where I was greeted with a kirtan party, and given a tour of the Riga Krishna temple. The building included a restaurant, an ayurvedic clinic, residential quarters for men and woman, and a very nice room for me. I was informed by the lovely lady hostess, that my Braja brother Dina Bandhu would be sleeping across from me later that night. Old friends and new friends are met on these magical Krishna tours.

The next morning, we piled into a van with Dina Bandhu, His assistant Arjun, the wife of the driver and his child sat in the front seat, and other devotee girls sat in the back seats. We stopped and had a prasadam picnic near a sea-side resort. We explored the resort, and then went on to Vilnius, Lithuania. Once again, we were greeted by a kirtan party (just like the old days). I was escorted to a very nice suite. It had one room with a desk, couch, and table. There was also a kitchen and sleeping quarters. The site had workshop rooms, p

ools and saunas. A lake and forest were nearby.
While in Latvia, I had two assistants assigned to me.

The next morning, Bhavananda, one of the assistants, took me to me to a large tent wherein about 800 devotees were ecstatically chanting and dancing. It contained an altar with all our inspirations decorated beautifully. There were also altars on the side.

While there, I proposed several seminars:
1) “Prabhupada is with us”
2) “Every town and village” {the history of Krishna Consciousness in the Western World}
3) “Krishna Consciousness is a great and joyful adventure”.


I spoke morning, evening and in between, while the younger devotees lapped up the nectar like kittens. The various Swamis also appreciated the talks, and asked questions from me. This is a list of the Maharajas present: Shubha Swami,
Dhirashanta Swami (He was with me as a bramachari during the early days in Vrindavan), Niranjan Swami, Sat Chid Ananda Swami, Chaitanya Swarup Swami, Chaitanya Swami, and Dina Bandhu.

The morning kirtans involved lively dancing and nourishing holy names. There were also gifts presented by many, including some artists. Kunda data devi dasi (Kamile Tamosulnaite) gave me some art etchings as a gift.

We rode to Riga with a nice family. The driver was a gifted astrologer and palmist; while his mother was an elderly devotee. Another bright-faced Bramacharini squeezed in. As we entered Riga, and crossed the river, I saw the old and new towns. The temple was in a great location. Kirtan and smiling devotees greeted me again in Riga. In fact, warm welcomes seemed to great us at each placw we visited.

I gave the evening class.  As someone in Britain once said, “Gurudas mixes Prabhupada and Krishna.” When I discuss Prabhupada as a person, I speak of his courage, humor, wit, intelligence, compassion, and open mindedness. The third generation of devotees only know Prabhupada through his wonderful writings. Many realizations come from this awesome and instructive perspective, so when they see Prabhupada in his personal way, they understand his real greatness. They see that he practiced the shastras daily, and they see how he manifested the Vedic culture in the modern materialistic world. People say that “my realization and flavor of Krishna Consciousness has changed for the better,” and “I feel you have brought Prabhupada to us.”

Most of the Eastern European devotees lived under strict totalitarian regimes, they already lived simply, and so they eagerly accept the simple living and high thinking, as well as the exoticness of the Krishna consciousness philosophy.


We went early to the airport, where we took Ryan airlines to Prague (or Narayan airlines, as we like to say). In Prague, we met some old friends and recorded a few bhajans such as “Gauranga Bolite Habe”, “Gurudev Kripa”, “Nitaipada Kamala”, and the “Hare Krishna Maha Mantra”. After the recording session, I gave a class at the Prague temple.

Jay Gurudev, a College Professor, arranged for me to stay in a college facility in a room overlooking a running track and footbal field. The Prague skyline could be seen in the distance as soaring swallows zipped near the window.

The next day, I had breakfast with Prema Priya and Puniya  Palika . Their daughter was getting married in a few weeks. After breakfast, Puniya Palika and I walked through a green park and past an old monastery. Then we got on the bus (they don’t charge seniors) and rode to a Krishna temple in Prague. At the temple, I met Sridhar Swami from Poland, who was at Chestahova in 1976 when Avenesh Chandra, Bhakti Bhibhava Swami, Suhotra and I were there. Chitrashekar was also present.

A photographer from Poland picked us up in a car, and we rode to the riverside docks. Puniya Palika arranged a boat ride. Then we met Captain Milan, and meandered peacefully in the middle of the river. This allowed us to see Prague, the beautiful city of towers, from another perspective. Thank you Krishna for opening doors, introducing me to people, allowing me to serve, and taking me on boat rides.

The next day I saw my old friends from Prague, and I gave the Sunday love feast talk. One of the old friends at the Prague temple was Kate, who ran a hotel castle, and theater. She is probably going to live at the Prague farm to continue her devotional life.

Padapangana took us to Nava Sady, a village where many devotee families live and work at the Damodar prasadam, catering and manufacturing plant. I was given a tour of a building next door that was new since the last visit. Panga told me of a big factory in a nearby town that was a possible site for the Vedic Care Charity (www.VedicCare.org).

I usually stayed with Lila Purosshattam, but Stitha Krishna Swami was staying there, so I stayed with Pada Panga and his family. They showed me before and after photos of the temple. There were two abhisheks, and one julan ceremony taking place. Maharaja and I sat on the vyas together. I like him because he is genially humble, curious and scholarly.

During the morning class on Janmashtami, the devotees asked me what quality of Srila Prabhupada impressed me the most? I responded, “His mercy”, and everyone laughed. Then I spoke about Prabhupada’s forgiveness, mercy, and inclusiveness. My friend, Shymananda, gave me a Venu Gita by Shivaram Swami that I read on the ride. I enjoyed devouring the nectar just in time for Janmashtami.

Padapankija told me that he bought another building in a nearby town, and asked if I would like to see it for a possible care facility. Purroshattam, Stitha Krishna Swami, Shymananda, Puniya Palika and I rode to the factory building. It is huge and can have many uses. We again talked about using the building as a care for devotees facility. Such a facility could house a school, care rooms, and a multi-faceted healing center (which could include Vedic arts and culture healing workshops). There would also be room for administrative offices and an organic farm plot. We will see what Radha Krishna have planned for us.

After the Vyas Puja feast, we rode to the Prague  Krsna Dvir farm with my good friends Pada Pankaja, Puniya Palika, and Shyamanada. We stopped at a Govinda’s restaurant in a nearby town and I saw my old friend Lilla Shakti, wife of Priya Kirti. She ran over and embraced me. Their son, Vamsi, smiled and greeted me.
He had two ice creams with umbrellas, and I always have a gift for him, so we made a paper car and boat. Later, I remembered how to make a paper airplane for him. I discovered that the Govinda’s restaurant also fed homeless people after closing.

I stayed with a wonderful family: Keshava Puri, Yoga Mayyee and Bhakta Mayee. Bhakta Mayee was a special child, who also warmed up to me as I was playful with her. They were formal at first, but soon they relaxed and we became a family, which I considered a great compliment. They took me to a Castle on the way to the post office. Deena Bhandu was arriving, so we reunited at a lunch from the devotees that run the Balaram restaurant in Prague.

On Sunday, I was visited by Martin Bursik, the minister of the Environment in the Czech Republic, and his wife.  Two other friends happened by. Ladislav Heryan , or Ladin as he is known, is a priest for the youth, and the other was a priestess from the Ukraine.

I opened up the Trutnov Open Air Music Festival with them two years earlier. She held the Ukrainian flag, and a 32-person kirtan band appeared on stage. We reminisced and exchanged many ideas. Martin had once met the Dalai Lama, and had a ring given to him. When their child chimed in sweetly I said, “She is the future.” They excitedly said, “That is what the Dalai Lama said to her also.” We proposed to form a gathering with the theme “Spirituality and the Environment”, and invited the Dalai Lama as well.

I am especially fond of Priya Kirti and family and we talked about starting a Vedic care project over lunch prasadam. Kesava Puri drove us back to Prague, I stayed at the college and gave two classes at the Prague temple, and a love feast with Nara Hari and Maha Duti Swami.

The next day, at the Airportin Belgium, there was a terrorist alert and I had to move through security twice. Finally, I spied a tilak and a devotee wearing it, and he helped out with suitcases. We rode through the Belgium countryside and a WW II battlefield before arriving at Radhadesh. Aradhana, who so expertly arranged everything, was meeting me from England. She is very thoughtful and expert, so the classes, meetings and tours at Radhadesh were paced nicely.

In fact, she facilitated my whole trip wonderfully. I toured the wood furnace, solar heating, the guesthouses, seminar hall, restaurant, boutique bakery, art gallery and museum.


Bhagavati, a wonderfully intelligent and competent devotee, has already been assisting devotees who died in Radhadesh. She is maintaining a room in cooperation with us at the Vedic Care. She is a devotee of Kadana Kanana Swamiji, who I had met before, (so another old Swamiji friend–there are so many). He sings like an angel and has overcome many obstacles by Krishna’s protection and Grace.

Ram das and Dhiti Dasi, artists from California, were teaching an art class and we became friends. Other devotees, such as President Manohar das and Mahaprabu were hospitable. We had some meetings regarding care for devotees as a possible college course. Eventually.  Dina Dayal, the director of the Bhaktivedanta College, took me on a tour to nearby rock formations.

We met with Bhagavati many times in an attempt to secure our plan to continue her service of care.  She had served three dying devotees recently, and it is important to secure more rooms for this purpose.

 Aradhana and I rode the train to London. It was a pleasant and easy ride from St. Pancreas station to London. My friend Yasodananda was there and greeted us.
That night, there was a house gathering with more Prabhupada katha.

The next morning, we attended a Srimad Bhagvatam class at Sri Sri London Iswara temple in Soho. Aradhana arranged a two-day filming with Barnaby at Birkbeck University, followed by an evening gathering

 on Radhastami in London. Deena Bandhu gave me his last copy of Vraja lilla and I gave a two-hour talk during which I read from Bhakti Rasamirtra Sindhu, Venu Gita and the Vraja lilla. I shared how Radaharani is the giver of compassion, and manifested Vrindavan for Krishna’s pleasure, and her wonderful qualities.

After some more filming, we took a train to Elstree and lunch at Sri Kama’s and Kishore’s. Then we visited Bhaktivedanta Manor, George’s garden, and did some filming in Prabhupada’s rooms. We then met with Gaura and talked about how they would adopt care for elderly devotees.  He also proposed a book launch tour for my up-coming book of my classic photos of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.

An evening gathering at Gangamata’s Gauidiya Math was very nice.
 I had a morning meeting with Rama Narishima, Aradhana, and Radha Priya dd.
Then we traveled to Gatwick, where as usual, my competent wearer of many hats helped rearrange suitcases crammed with many gifts and appreciations.

As always, it is rewarding to bring Prabhupada’s compassion, mercy, humor, flexibility, adventurous curiosity, and open mindedness to many. One can witness the transformation as the flavor of Krishna changes from the awesome and stern instruction to real personalism, love and understanding of how it began.
I watched as stoic faces changed into smiles, tears and laughter as they met Swamiji. This is my and our legacy.

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”.

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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

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For information on the VCC, please visit www.VedicCare.org

The Vedic Care Model Facility

The Vedic Care Mission and Model in Tucson, Arizona

Wisdom of the elders
Energy of the young
As spring and winter dance together
In service and devotion to God

At the Vedic Care Charitable Trust, we are committed to developing a community based in Tuscon, Arizona, to take excellent care of our spiritual elders.

Civilization means caring for our elderly and facilitating service between our elderly and young.

Experience embraces curiosity
A sense of perspective greets adventure
Knowing blends with hope
Patience harmonizes with exploration

Our elders will feel valued and nurtured.
Our younger volunteers will feel empowered with purpose.

Together, in God’s service, we will care for each other, and thereby, develop our devotion.

We have six staff members ready to serve, and four beds to fill already today.

Our California Fundraising Tour begins on March 12th, 2017.
Please follow us on our “CA Tour Diaries” page @www.vediccare.org

The desert southwest (Tucson, Arizona) is the ideal location for VCC senior care, hospice care, permaculture, arts and community building because of the inspiring and world famous landscape, year round warm weather and breathtaking mountain vistas.

437 South Railroad is the ideal setting for the VCC’s launch in the desert southwest. With six beds and six full, private baths and 7,888 square ft, the home has ample space for privacy, a creative space/school, large dining hall, commercial sized kitchen and patio area large enough to host multiple patients, community members or even events. The main home is 100% solar powered.

The property includes a back lot with three separate guest homes, all of which have two bedrooms, one bath and full kitchens. This will be turned into seven-plus beds for Adult Assisted Care. We also have a forty acre farm less then two hours drive from Tucson with plenty of water. Both properties are on the market for a combined total of $1.4M, but the VCC needs only from 30% to 50% of this amount to begin its operations. For the detailed Business Plan (with three year projections) on this operation, please email us at info(at)vediccare.org. Thank you.

Patients, artists, food activists, healers and teachers will work together, building a community where devotees can find peace in their end of life transition, surrounded by caring counselors, Vedic doctors, spiritual artists and musicians.

Teachers will educate on broader global subjects to enrich the lives of the old and young. Spiritually minded food activists can grow and educate the surrounding community on sustainable, organic farming in smaller spaces. And finally, creative artists can inspire with their music, singing, sculpting and canvas work.

Please donate generously.




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