Preparing to go Home
Posted August 12, 2004
I am submitting the following article in the hope that you will see fit to publish it for the edification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His servants. I am not a good preacher in the "sit-in-a-class" sense, but maybe this illness I am going through, is allowing me to preach in a different way.....putting the philosophy into action in my own small way. I have been asked by a godsister to keep a diary of my experiences and insights, in the hope that it may be of benefit to others. I will begin here by "setting the scene".
"" This is not going to be an easy or quick journey, and parts of it may disturb some people, but I can promise that it will be real and honest.
I am not living with any one illness or disability. I am living with a CONDITION. It has a name, but the name is an umbrella term for a whole collection of different things. I am living with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). I have been aware of this since March 6th 2001 and I have shared this fact with certain senior devotees and Srila Gurudeva of course. This is not something that anyone can catch from me - in fact, a trip to India may prove more "dangerous" in that respect. The first year of diagnosis was one of denial.....thinking I was the Controller, that I could handle things. Then came the huge black cloud of Depression. I spent over a year dealing with the implications of my new situation. Facing up to the reality of an unpleasant, somewhat painful life and death ahead of me. In the midst of this darkness, I found a beacon of hope - Srila Gurudeva. He took mercy on this fallen soul and extended his hand to me and welcomed me to his side. He gave me a new name and a new energy for life. With this new energy, I began looking inwards and made a startling discovery. All the time and energy that we spend externally looking for satisfaction/happiness/Sri Krsna....it means nothing compared to the riches and beauty that lies within. But then, what should we expect, when Sri Paramatma resides there?
This last year has been one of continuing discovery - mountain tops as well as dark chasms. Through all of this, I have grown more and more attached to the lotus feet of Srila Gurudeva and my Deities Sri-Sri Jagannatha-Nrsimhadeva. I may never be a great scholar, but I love the Supreme Lord with every fibre of my being and I KNOW that He loves me right back. Everything else, for me, hinges on those 2 facts.
My health is still a concern. Since returning from Australia, I have suffered from extremely severe fevers followed by an attack of Bell's Palsy - facial paralysis. My blood count has also raised some questions between my consultant and me. My Viral Load has jumped from 5700 to 59000, and my CD4(white cells) has dropped below 350 for the first time. If this trend continues, I will be on HAART(HIV medication) by the autumn; though with the removal of the stress over housing and work, things could improve.
Actually...that last statement shows how attached to material life I am. I know that each of these viruses in me body is a living entity and has as much "right" to life as I do. I have to decide whether my life is more important than theirs', because the medication will cause them (and me) harm, due to its toxicity. We shall see. I will ask my Lords for Their guidance, and beg for the mercy of the Vaisnavas reading this and ask that, if they see fit, they will intercede with Sri-Sri Jagannatha-Nrsimhadeva on my behalf.
This material life of mine is like a row-boat floating downstream with the oars long gone. I have a rudder - my sadhana, so can avoid some of the rocks and driftwood in my path. Patches of rapids and white-water roaring through narrow, deep gorges where you can hardly see the sky overhead. Stretches of beautiful, idyllic, calmness drifting through forest glades and flower-filled meadows. Cows and deer, peacocks and parrots, Gopis and Gopas all laughing and dancing, playing instruments and waving at me as I float past. The boat has so many banners and flags and other decorations attached to it, it makes its own music as it floats on by.
All that is in the past now though. I have reached the end of the river and have floated out onto the ocean of misery that we must cross to get Home. The storms of the ocean lash the tiny row boat and rip the decorations away piece by piece. I am adrift and slowly being sucked towards a huge whirlpool and there is nothing I can or want to do about it. I am looking past it....to the flag "Triloka-Mohini" that flutters from the tall canopy of my rescue-ship "Nandighosa" which carries towards me the Object of my heart's desire. I know that I will be saved and not drown. Don't ask me to explain it, but I know. It is the first REAL thing I have known for such a long time and I am at peace.
The past year has seen so many huge changes in my life, following on from my diagnosis of HIV in March 2001, the break-up of a 5-year relationship in October that year, my Harinama initiation in June 2003 (after almost 20 years), my becoming homeless, being down-graded at work, and on June 20th I contracted a severe chest infection which didn't show itself for over a week.
My doctor gave me a 7-day course of anti-biotics which I completed, and it appeared that the infection had gone. 4 days later however, it came back with a vengeance. I went to my HIV Clinic, and was prescribed some different drugs, and they ran tests to see if I am suffering with Tuberculosis. I took the new drugs for 1 day only and began to have an allergic reaction. I was violently sick, and my skin came out in large, red, very itchy blotches. This is the first allergy I have ever to medication. I went back to the Clinic and was given some anti-allergy medication which seemed to work. This brings us up to Thursday 22nd July . As the day progressed the reaction worsened and at 02:30am on Friday morning, my lips and gums began swelling and my throat began closing down. My breathing was becoming laboured as I telephoned for the Ambulance. They were here in less than 5 minutes. Whilst waiting for them, I began thinking about my beautiful Sri-Sri Jagannatha-Nrsimhadeva, and how only a week earlier, I had made arrangements for Their care if anything happened to me. And there I was....I was so calm and at peace....my Lords were with me and I was in Their care. My hands and feet were so swollen, I couldn't walk or close my hands. My throat and face were painful. I couldn't even swallow water. My breathing was very, very shallow. My resting pulse rate was up over 150 beats per minute.
Anyway...I was rushed into the emergency room where one of the nurses attempted to get a line in the back of my hand. She managed it on the first attempt... no mean feat considering she couldn't see my veins for the swelling and discoloration. She then took a pair of scissors and cut the Tulsi-Mala from around my swollen throat. My Lords were with me at that moment, because she looked into my eyes and realised that she had crossed a line. She took the beads and tied them back around my right wrist. She was right - I needed to breathe.
The adrenalin was on standby, but the intravenous meds worked. Within an hour, my body was returning to some kind of "normal". I was kept in for a further 6 hours and then sent home with some oral meds. I kept taking them until Sunday, and ate my first solid food (soup) on Monday 2nd August, after 7 days of an almost total fast. I am back at the hospital tomorrow for the TB results, and I am pretty much a wreck physically, but SPIRITUALLY - WOW!!! I feel so free.
People always ask "What would you do if....?", and we all like to think that we would be able to do the right thing. Until you are in the situation though, you will never really know. Over the last 18 years in my journey along the river of Spiritual Life, I have often asked myself - "Will you be able to think of Krsna when the time comes?" A little over 108 hours ago, I had my answer. A resounding "YES!" (this time).
If we go back to the image of the row-boat caught in the whirlpool...the closer to the Centre it gets, the faster and more violent the current, so the harder the little boat gets shaken about, and all the external trappings and decorations get ripped off. At the dead Centre, when all that is left is me clutching to the rudder, then, He reaches His hand down to me and I need to make that leap of faith....to LET GO and LET GOD! In the full and complete knowledge that He will catch me up to Him and take me Home with Him.
Thus concludes this chapter of the Life and End times of Pitambara dasa. My apologies if I offended anyone. It was totally unintended. All I will say is that I am no scholar. All I know is that I love Sri-Sri Jagannatha-Nrsimhadeva with every fibre of my being, and They love me. That is all that matters to me.
aspiring to serve the servants of the Vaisnavas
Pitambara dasa ""