Bringing Krishna’s Mercy to the Aged

The article online @ http://btg.krishna.com/bringing-krishnas-mercy-aged

By Ananta Shesha Dasa

The Vedic Care Charitable Trust aims to help devotees in their final years.

The Bhagavad-gita teaches that we cannot avoid old age, disease, or death. When Srila Prabhupada brought Krishna consciousness to America in 1965, his young disciples accepted the truth of this teaching. And as time has passed and devotees have aged, this teaching has become more relevant. Gurudas, one of Prabhupada’s earliest disciples, has spent his life in Krishna’s service. He helped establish the London temple, traveled the world distributing books and spreading Krishna consciousness, and recently started the Vedic Care Charitable Trust to help aging devotees in their final years.

Care in Practice

Although the Vedic Care Charitable Trust (aka ‘Vedic Care Charity’ or the ‘VCC’) has only existed since 2015, it has already done a lot of good. One example involves a woman in Belgium named Manisha, who was uninitiated because she could not stop smoking. This did not deter her from devotional service, however. She chanted daily, distributed prasadam every Wednesday, and hosted a biweekly kirtana program at her home.

In 2016 Manisha was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and after 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 mean the cancer would kill her, but at age seventy-eight, she was ready for that.

With financial support and guidance from the Vedic Care Charitable Trust, her friend Bhagavati Devi Dasi was able to help her quit smoking so that she could live out her time with the devotees at Radhadesh, the ISKCON community in the Belgian Ardennes. Through Krishna’s mercy, Manisha was able to sell her home in Liege and move to a home near the temple. Inspired by this mercy, Bhagavati wrote to her spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Swami, and asked him to initiate Manisha. Since she was now following all four of the regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds, he was very happy to do so. With special permission from the local temple authorities and ISKCON’s governing body commissioner (GBC) for Belgium, Manisha was initiated.

After her initiation, she did 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, and Bhagavati’s shalagrama-shila (Krishna’s incarnation as a deity in the form of a small stone) 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 chanting japa played most of the time except for when she was listening to the Bhagavad-gita or the Chaitanya-charitamrita. On Lord Balarama’s appearance day, Bhagavati purified Manisha’s right hand with a few drops of water, put a flower in it, and asked for her prayer to Balarama. She asked Him to take her as soon as possible.

The next morning, Manisha was in a lot of pain, so a morphine pump was set up to help her manage the pain. Bhagavati recalls:

Manisha was very sleepy, and I just sat next to her bed to read to her. The doctor came again at 2:00 p.m. and told us that she would have another twenty-four to thirty-six hours. By 3:00 p.m. I was sitting with Manisha together with another devotee and her breathing changed into the labored “death rattle.” I knew she would probably not have twenty-four 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 shalagrama-shila 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 kirtana. At 4:40 p.m. 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 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, “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 Liege to move and leave her body in Radhadesh, Krishna reciprocated. This act of surrender was her ticket back home to Godhead. This story illustrates the crucially important work being performed by the Vedic Care Charitable Trust.

The Origins of the VCC

Gurudas formed the Vedic Care Charitable Trust with the help of Aradhana Devi Dasi, Rama Nrisimha Dasa, and Yadunandana Pada Dasa, who soon moved on to other pursuits. In a recent interview, Gurudas explained the need for this work: “I saw the need to take care of our devotees. For fifty years we have evolved, building new temples and communities and farms, publishing new books, starting cow protection programs, but no devotee care. Many devotees who served for years were sent out of the ashram or temple because there was no care facility. My idea is preventative medicine via outreach teams that can assist the families in homes or hospitals and bring the holy names and healthy prasadam to those devotees.”

Laying out the general idea, Gurudas explained that the VCC is an international member-supported organization meant to create retirement homes offering kirtanakrishna-katha (spiritual discussions), classes, seminars, consulting, and counseling. It also promotes self-subsistent farms and other creative projects. 

“Our retirement homes allow residents to spend their later years in like-minded association,” Gurudas said, “instead of being cared for in isolation and having to react alone to the symptoms of sickness. Staffed hospice facilities and Vedic transition support will be available through this international cooperative based on love and trust. With a focus on preventative care, we can ease the pain and suffering together.” 

In March 2016 Gurudas spoke about his vision when The New York Timesran a half-page article about him and his work. (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/business/retirementspecial/krishna-devotees-look-to-provide-for-this-life.html?_r=0)

The Vedic Care Charitable Trust was registered as a charity in June 2015. Aradhana Devi Dasi, cofounder, trustee, and CEO, says, “We’re a platform for connecting everyone who is caring in an isolated way.” In other words, there are devotees who are independently trying to do what they can to help but many times lack the know-how and resources. The VCC brings those individuals together under a single umbrella and offers those resources. “Most devotees come to us when in desperate need,” she continues, “having nowhere else to go, and although we have many other caring-oriented projects, hands-on devotee care is our main focus. Being neither a religious nor a medical charity, we have the advantage of acquiring financial supporters from many other already established nonprofit organizations, from government grants, and from disparate individuals. By doing our service in an inclusive way, we’ll be extending our preaching power into mainstream yogic lifestyles and advancing Krishna consciousness. This holistic service is very needed in our Vaishnava communities.”

In its three-and-a-half-year existence, the charity has cared for about fifty devotees and begun a number of important projects. Individual care is being offered in Vrindavan, India; London, England; Radhadesh, Belgium; Alachua, Florida; and New Talavan, Mississippi. In addition, planning for a model facility is underway in Sedona, Arizona. This facility will demonstrate how devotees will be cared for in a Krishna conscious environment, where people follow the regulative principles, discuss the Lord’s glorious pastimes, and chant His holy name. In this way the aging devotee, through association with other devotees, will be able to peacefully transition back home to Godhead.

The Importance of Vedic Care

One of the premises inspiring the Vedic Care Charitable Trust is that the Krishna conscious way of life greatly benefits the spirit soul and also makes material life better. Consider, for example, three elements of a devotee’s life that the VCC offers sick or dying devotees and others: diet, association, and sankirtana.

The Bhagavad-gita (3.13) states: “The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” The sick or dying devotee who is fed only krishna-prasadam will enjoy a karma-free diet that aids in the liberation of the soul and benefits the material body.

The second aspect of the devotee’s life to consider is association. Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) states: “In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.”

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

The final aspect of the devotee’s life to consider is sankirtana, the chanting and hearing of the holy names. The regular chanting and hearing of the transcendental vibration of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the supreme method of attaining Krishna consciousness in this age of Kali. The benefits are legion. For example, Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.14) tells us that “Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krishna, which is feared by fear personified,” and in The Nectar of Devotion (Chapter 2), Srila Prabhupada quotes Shukadeva Goswami’s advice to King Parikshit: “My dear King, if you want to be fearless in meeting your death next week (for actually everyone is afraid at the point of death), then you must immediately begin the process of hearing and chanting and remembering God.” (Bhagavatam 2.1.5) For this reason, sankirtana is perhaps even more important for the elderly. 

Diet, association, and sankirtana are crucial elements that will allow the elderly to accept aging without lamentation and accept death without fear. They will allow the devotee to live a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life right up to the moment of death. Unfortunately, many elderly devotees, being in traditional care facilities, are being denied these. This is why it is so important that Krishna conscious retirement homes and hospices be constructed. Once they’re established, the elderly devotee in need of care will receive nourishing prasadam while surrounded by other devotees engaged in the service of Krishna. 

Endorsements and Volunteers

In addition to the primary goal of establishing care facilities, the Vedic Care Charitable Trust runs a website (www.vediccare.org) that is useful to those needing service and those who want to help. Plans and success stories can be found there, as well as a library of Krishna conscious literature and the VCC journal, The Vedic Times. The outreach care programs allow volunteers to visit shut-ins and those in care facilities to share shastra readings, kirtana, and prasadam. In this way those like Manisha who need association and care before the VCC facilities are established can still have access to it. 

Many devotees have endorsed and applauded the efforts of the VCC. GBC member Guru Prasada Swami said, “I fully and wholly endorse this most wonderful effort to serve Vaishnavas. In the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam it states unequivocally that service to the Vaishnavas is the key to performing bhakti.” 

GBC executive committee member Yadunandana Swami concurs. “Service to the Vaishnavas is the highest religious principle, the offering that pleases the Lord the most.” 

Ambarisha Dasa many have best explained the need for what the VCC offers: “Many devotees from around the world have sacrificed their lives and well-being to give the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai to people everywhere. There must be a place for them at the end of life where they can be cared for in a Krishna conscious environment.” 

Prabhupada taught the principle dasa anudasa: “[I am] the servant of the servant.” The Vedic Care Charitable Trust is set up to be the servant of Krishna’s servants. Its work is a crucial form of devotional service. It will continue, and the more devotees who join its cause, the more work can be accomplished. 

Readers interested in learning more or getting involved may visit the VCC website: www.vediccare.org.

Yet We Go On

By Gurudas:

In thanks to the volunteers of the Vedic Care Cooperative

YET WE GO ON.

We have a simple vision
To care for one another

It is a challenge
In the mist of apathy
Injustice
Attacks
Complacency

Yet we go on.

The adversity to be compassionate
in this advancing world of Kali Yuga
Is the most blatant
Non act

If you’re not part of the solution,
you’re part of the problem
Now even more Quarells,
War

Crudeness and rudeness
Of so called world leaders
Injustice
Crooked politics

Decreasing rainforests
One football field a second
Loss natural medicine

Global warming

and apathy to Mother Bhumi (Earth)

in the midst of all of this

We as a empathetic group:
The Vedic Care Coperative VCC
We still care
and
Yet we go on

Whilst we continue to care and triaj for many
On little money
We volunteer our time
Expertise,
Wisdom
Experience
Compassion
Because we care.’

True Vaishnavas giving all
for love of Radha Krishna and Gurus

Yet we go on.

We have endured
Burning vehicles
Loss of jobs
Prejudice
And being taken advantage of by
Greedy insensitive
Demons

We have endured
Jail time and separation from family
having only one orange
That tasted like a feast in 16 hours
And the only thing left when stripped of dignity and country
Was faith in Radha Krishna and the holy names

and we come out stronger,
and we have endured
Personal health injuries
Being misunderstood
And vilification
And more apathy
until you all get older and sick

And yet we go……

The VCC

And we will continue to go on

Love, Medicine, and Music: The Flipside of the Sixties

An Evening with Gurudas Prabhu 2018

Dear Devotees and Readers,

Please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thinking back to the evening, amid the music and the stories, and the sense of shared space and warmth that comes with gatherings such as this, one quote from Gurudas Prabhu has remained with me above the others, “We have family, now we need community.”

In some ways the sentiment might be baffling.  What is a community if not a kind of family?  Yet, as Gurudas Prabhu spoke on a time gradually fewer will be able to remember, fondly wearing the hat of his beloved Guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I began to understand.

Much like today in many ways, 1960’s America was nothing if not a time of change.  Revolution followed revolution as a disenfranchised youth sought change and reformation in every place that offered it, and some, like Gurudas Prabhu, sought a spiritual revolution, a revolution of the heart through a radical decision to be happy without everything American consumerism told people they needed.

Many encountering what came to be known as the “Hare Krishna Movement,” or Gaudiya Vaishnavism in non-colloquial terms, had families, but family, like many people find, isn’t always the same as community, isn’t always the same as a group of people from different backgrounds and experiences choosing to be with each other out of love rather than obligation.

As Gurudas Prabhu told stories and shared memories of meeting the Beatles, his friendship with George Harrison, and his personal relationship with His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, what stood out was his gentle love and affection for everyone he spoke of.  In a time when practitioners were being kidnapped off the streets to be held by the police or their families, coming from a background of social and civil activism, Gurudas Prabhu seemed to have never hardened, instead telling story after story of how Bhakti Yoga became revolutionary to so many, as Srila Prabhupada taught his clumsy and heartfelt disciples that in Bhakti Yoga there would be no difference between the men and women, no value to be put on class or race, that to be gentle with themselves and to learn was enough.

With shining eyes, as he discussed his early memories, Gurudas Prabhu said, “don’t beat yourself up—do things sincerely.  We are children.” When many find it easy to stress the aspects of discipline or austerity in a practice, the urge to put rules above affection, Gurudas Prabhu painted a unique picture of the social stresses of the time through a distinctly personal lens, that allowed no room for distancing the people of the 1960s from the social and historical personalities it’s viewed through now.  Because for Gurudas Prabhu, as he recalled his friends, his journey, and his guru, what he shared were memories and all that comes with them, rather than a speech or a lesson.

As we closed the evening with more kirtan and food, everyone sought to make sure Gurudas Prabhu received his refreshments first.  Yet as other students and myself sat on the floor to sing more kirtan while food was being served, Gurudas Prabhu held a pair of kartals with great care and seated himself on the floor with the rest of us, food temporarily forgotten as he sang with all of us, his smiling face that of a joyful youth.

A man who learned that the permission to be happy and serve the ones you love was a revolution to last generations, carried on the back of a gentle Swami from Kolkata to California, to meet Gurudas Prabhu and so many others as they were.  “We are children”, he said.  “Just do things sincerely.”

Thank you so much to ASSG, SOAC, and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and everyone from CSI who helped out for sponsoring this experience and allowing this event to be possible, and thank you, most sincerely, to Gurudas Prabhu himself.  The evening you gave to our campus and our humble club was an experience as valuable as it was special, and truly an evening to be cherished beyond all words.  Being able to share these aspects of Bhakti Yoga with the CU Boulder community was an honor made possible by all of you.

Sincerely with Affection,
Your Servants,
Panchali Walford & The CU Boulder Bhakti Yoga Club

To order Gurudas’ books, click here.

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,

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARITY

By Ananta Sesa Dasa

The question of charity has long been of concern within the Krishna Consciousness movement. Should a devotee give in charity, and if so, how and to whom? In answering these questions, let us consider a couple key passages.

Acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance are not to be given up, but should be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity, and penance purify even the great souls (Bhagavad-Gita 18.5).

So, the Bhagavad-Gita instructs the devotee to perform acts of charity, which are beneficial to the improvement of the soul. However, it also warns that charity must be given in the proper mode.

Charity in the mode of goodness is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return (Bhagavad-Gita 17.20).

In the purport to this passage, Srila Prabhupada writes: “charity given to a person engaged in spiritual activities is recommended.” This means that charity is a positive and purifying activity when used correctly.

It is sometimes asked why the devotees of Krishna do not engage in charity work like other religious organizations. Prabhupada would often speak against “mundane charity”, arguing that we cannot do anything to improve the material condition. So, donating money to homeless shelters, cancer research or the police officers benevolent fund will do little but mask the symptoms of the real disease that is playing mankind. Instead, one should engage in real charity—something that will help mankind overcome the material condition and find his way back home to Godhead.

Money should be given to promote Krishna Consciousness around the world—to support those who travel to preach, distribute books, and offer prasadam—in short, to support those things that will awaken the dormant Krishna Consciousness that lies within all.

Prabhupada explained the idea like this:
It is impossible to improve people’s material conditions. Material conditions are already established by the superior administration according to one’s karma. They cannot be changed. The only benefit we can render to suffering beings is to try to raise them to spiritual consciousness…If one is at all sympathetic or able to do good to others, he should endeavor to raise people to Krishna consciousness
(Srimad Bhagavatam 5.8.10, purport).

While it is very important to promote Krishna Consciousness, it is equally important to provide the services necessary for devotees to stay on the path of Krishna Consciousness. This is why organizations such as the Vedic Care Charitable Trust qualify as worthy charities. The VCC does not support mundane activities, but rather, it supports transcendental ones.

The VCC is not a mundane charity, nor does it encourage fruitive activities. It works to support those devotees who dedicated their lives to the service is Krishna. It operates on the principle of “das anu das”, the notion that we are the “servants of the servants”, a concept strongly promoted by Srila Prabhupada.

The VCC seeks to establish retirement villages and hospice facilities where devotees can associate with other devotees, regularly chant and hear about the glories of the Lord, and be fed only Krishna prasadam. Far too many devotees leave this body in the company of strangers, materialists who know nothing of devotional service, and some may begin to falter in their faith due to lack of genuine association. The VCC is working to change all of that.

Your donations and service do not support medical research, animal slaughter or financial greed. Your donations to the Vedic Care Charitable Trust only go to support the cause of Krishna Consciousness and all of the devotees who have served. Please consider making a donation or offering your service to this worthy charity today. Hare Krishna!

Please visit the Who-We-Serve page @ www.vediccare.org/who-we-serve or the VCC Out-Reach program page @ www.vediccare.org/out-reach-teams.

Geopathic Stress & Earth Acupunture

Intelligence or chaos ~ Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Intelligence or chaos ~ the teleological argument

A book written by Hari Krsna das (Henk Keilman)

“The numerical coincidences (necessary for an anthropic universe) could be regarded as evidence of design. The delicate fine tuning in the values of the constants, necessary so that the various different branches of physics can dovetail so felicitously, might be attributed to God. It is hard to resist the the impression that present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.”

Paul Davies PhD, physicist

3D illustration of neurons (brain cells) and nerve synapses in the human brain, the most complicated organ of the human body. The human brain consists of an average of 100 billion neurons and the human body consists of about 75 trillion cells. The complexity and the organizational level of the human body and brain are indescribable. But even the structure of the smallest atom, the hydrogen atom, appears to have a complexity and a structured balance that cannot be comprehended. From the smallest sub-atomic particle, up to the living organisms and clusters of Milky Way systems, the universe is permeated with an indescribable level of organised complexity

The first atheistic proposition: complexity is the result of chance and chaos

Most committed and outspoken atheists come from the world of science and philosophy. Dawkins and Baggini for instance, are considered to be authoritative academics. They believe in the scientific method and they often consciously position themselves as being completely opposite religion— which they call ‘superstition’ — to show that they represent reason. They suggest that religion belongs to the realm of emotions and feelings, where people can vent the thought that they ‘feel that there has to be something more’. They are firmly convinced that there is no, and that there cannot be any rational or scientific foundation for the proposition that the universe arises from and is governed by an intelligent power.

Please continue reading or download your free PDF here.

To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If not now, then when?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In service,
Hare Krishna
Lisa

An homage to our late friend Mr. Amrik

By Dr. Juhi Gautam (Janhava devi dasi)

I was shocked to hear about Mr Amrik unexpected passing away. I had met him three times in Vrindavan, in the month of September 2017 and each meeting with him was very productive at the same time very moving. He seemed to me like a slim build fit man who didn’t suffer with any ailments, which was even more unsettling for me to reconcile with the sudden news of his demise.

Mr. Amrit – A dedicated Devotee and our well wisher

Mr. Amrik was a kind and caring person with extraordinary desire to help people and to connect them to a place where one could achieve health and mental wellness. He mentioned to me on all occasions that he want to see this place, ‘Home like Vrindavan’ (where our two rooms for devotee care are today) as a spiritual resort and he was forthcoming in helping us to turn this and run it that way.

He was a man of his words and was very motivated about putting his words into action. From his vast experience of marketing and his connections in the corporate world, he felt that he could bring millions of people working in the corporate sector under stressful situations and people from metropolitan cities suffering pollution and facing the grind of life, to find this place in Vrindavan as a haven to obtain treatment for their health problems and and achieve wellness.

Mr. Amrik wanted us to run the Clinic/Spa in Vrindavan in association with the ‘Vedic Care’, as a ‘service to Lord Krishna and “to serve the mankind” in his own words. He was ready to provide us all the help to facilitate this venture. He was ready to use his experience in marketing to reach out to scores of people who could benefit from it.

He kindly asked me to create a brochure for all the services and packages that could be beneficial and could be offered from this facility. I am disappointed by his short stay with us but his desire to serve lives on in the Holy place of Lord Krishna and will continue to inspire many of us from here on.

We thank him and pray for his safe return home. Hare Krishna!