Tag Archives: #thevcc

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,

Geopathic Stress & Earth Acupunture

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.”

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.

The Success Story of Sudhama Maharaj

By Gurudas,

A gray faced man let Varuna and I into the national hotel.
He buzzed us through a heavy metal latticed door.
We walked up the dingy stairs to the third floor.
The halls were filled with debris, needles, children’s toys, clothes, and a cat wandering aimlessly..

We went to the third floor.
Some of the doors were open, with music, shouts, and various members of humanity inviting us into their dens.

Our mission then was to find Sudhama. Sudhama who loved and served Prabhupad. By now his disease had spread, and he was dying.
Loud sounds music, arguing, people banging on the walls greeted us.
Sudhama’s room was at the end of the hall of many small rooms.

Even though he was sick and dying, his room was meticulous, and everything was in place, there was a bed a small desk which was now an altar, a hot plate in the kitchen area.  His clothes were pressed and grains were in jars/pressed and immaculate, hanging on a pipe.

The window looked onto a a brick alley. Someone was banging on the wall again. Sudhama said “come in”,  weakly when we knocked. He was skinny and emaciated, yet he smiled and perked up when he saw us. He was frightened, his eyes were hollow.


They said “I don’t want to die”. However he was too weak to entertain, and we asked him if he would like to get out of this unsavory hotel. He immediately said yes, and we arranged for him to fly to the Los Angeles Krishna Temple, and into the loving care of Omkara devi dasi. Subsequently the transition in a proper manner and environment.

This is just one instant where I was privileged to be at the bedside or helping a great Vaishnava into Krishna’s care.

Hare Krsna! Jaya Sudhama Maharaj!

Care of Devotees

By Gurudas

To all Vaishnava devotees,

Prabhupad said “Those who have given their lives for Krishna should be taken care of at the end”.

When I said “Prabhupad sometimes I am sad by the way people treat each other, and sometimes…. Prabhupad replied “Why sometimes, we should always be compassionate.” And he bandaged my foot; himself, in Vrindavan when my foot was cut.

I heard recently a female devotee who gave ten years of full time service to Temples, was neglected by the devotee administrators, and shipped off to her parents who do not support Krishna consciousness and eat meat, etc.

There are too many stories of neglect or even abuse to elders and devotees in general.

Do not turn your backs on aging devotees who have served for most of their life; some for 50 years.
We are not ready to be forgotten.
We are still serving,

Das anu das is one of the main principles Prabhupad gave us. And it works when we perform it sincerely.

Again: “Any one who has given their life for Krishna, should be cared for at the end.”… A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad.

We at the Vedic Care Cooperative want to provide a model Vedic atmosphere for devotees and other spiritual seekers in need. However we cannot do this in every town and village, so we will assist, teach care, give classes, create more devotee care-giving Out-Reach Teams, etc.; but we really want all of you to take notice and create care places in your temples, homes, etc.

We can be examples of a positive alternative to the Callous apathetic material world, by caring for our own.
Please don’t turn your back!

We could be you,as you are getting older and you never know when you will be in need of care.

Please act on this need, or support our VedicCare.Org.

Truly yours,
Gurudas

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

By Bhagavati devi dasi and Ananta Sesa dasa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sarva-dharman parityaj
ya
mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

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

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

~~~~~~

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

All about the ‘Vedic Care Radhadesh’ here.
We’re now planning a VCC ‘Preventive Medicine’ and ‘How to Care’ Seminar for May 2018 in Radhadesh.
Please follow us on FB for all updates.

The ‘Vedic Care’ Retreat in Paraty ~ Brazil

The Yoga & Ayurveda Retreat will be held in May 2018, in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

The Eco-Village and the Hotel Dharma Shala are in the mountainous jungle on the coast of Rio.

The Eco-Village has:
Many waterfalls in the mountains, near gorgeous preserved beaches; vegetable gardens, cows, exotic tropical birds, wild bananas, tropical fruit trees, fresh ‘ahimsa milk’ and a beautiful temple.

The Retreat offers:
Vegetarian and Vegan organic meals
Daily hikes to different waterfalls
Bhakti & Asana Yoga classes
Ayurvedic teachings
Shamanic experiences & Guided meditation
Vegetarian & Vegan Cooking classes
Kirtan (spiritual music sessions)
Herbal/Botanical Medicine/Natural healing
‘Cinema and the Psyche’ workshop
Murals and basic painting workshop

We will also have music and other performances during a bonfire on the last night.

Massages, one to one therapy with the Ayurveda, Natural Medicine Doctors and Counselors, day or half-day visits to the historic town and preserved beaches nearby can be arranged but are not included.

ROOMS ~ SEMINARS ~ PRICES
Seven Days and Six Nights

For Prices, Packages and the booking form to secure your place, please go to here.

Package prices include all seminars and workshops, its certificates and all meals. Not included: Flights and pickup /drop off at the Rio de Janeiro International Airport.  Pick-ups with our Van (12 persons) cost $60 each way.

Seminars/workshops descriptions are here

The location is near the costal town of Paraty, in the Rio de Janeiro State ~ Brazil.

See our amazing location in the video below or on Vimeo.


HOSTING AND GIVING SEMINARS

GURUDAS: Guided Meditation”, “We’re the Healers”, “History of Western Vaishnavism” with personal reportage photos and films, and “Introduction to Bhakti Yoga”
ARADHANA DEVI DASI: Introduction to Bhakti Yoga ~ Mantra Meditation
CHAITANYA SWARUP DAS: Ayurveda ~ Self Management of Health Seminar. You will learn a mixture of popular interest and advanced Ayurvedic concepts.
Dr. CAROLLE CHAPMAN: The Healing Power of Herbs ~ Our Friends and Supporters in Life, Health and Healing
Brief Introduction of the ancient use of herbs in all cultures to heal, and Introduction to Bhakti Yoga
MATTHEW JOSEPH MORREALE: Cinema and the Psyche workshop.  ‘Cinema and the Psyche’ is an exploring into the nature of cinema, the psyche and how they interrelate.
JODY VAN BRUNT: Asana & Pranayam. “I believe Yoga starts with the breath, if you can breathe you can do Yoga!”
SUE ANN BECK-RYAN: Murals and basic painting workshop
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN COOKING COURSES: Local teacher
KIRTAN: (spiritual music) bhajan leaders from Brazil

Average Weather in April in Paraty

In Paraty, the month of April is characterized by gradually falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing by 3°F, from 85°F to 82°F over the course of the month, and rarely exceeding 92°F or dropping below 76°F.

Daily low temperatures decrease by 3°F, from 74°F to 70°F, rarely falling below 65°F or exceeding 77°F.

For further details please visit www.vediccare.org/paraty-retreat

All ‘Vedic Care’ Events are to assist the fundraising of our global endevours and model facility.

The ‘Vedic Care’ ~ An Oasis of Love

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 (www.VedicCare.org) 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.

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