Tag Archives: #devoteescare

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, and Tina Heiland is our competent office coordinator;  Matthew 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

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