B.T. Swami finds inspiration in Mulaprakriti's book
Posted February 1, 2005
Last week a group of doctors who have been dealing with my illness met to discuss my case. One oncologist, somewhat representing the group, explained to me, after I probed him for quite a while, that basically they have very little (or anything) to offer me at this point. He explained that melanoma cancer has not been known to respond effectively to chemo and radiation and that the additional operation proposed for taking out all the lymph nodes in the thigh was not only dangerous and full of possible heavy side effects, but could not really guarantee any extended life.
I had already concluded that I was not going to go through another operation, for I already understood that there was very little at this time that allopathic medicine and care could offer me. The depth of my melanoma was more or less a death sentence and whatever is done, even if it does work for some time, will just temporarily put off the inevitable. Therefore they wanted me to be aware of the studies on melanoma, so that I would understand that I am quickly or slowly dying. (Although I have stopped the allopathic treatment, I am still pursing a few alternative treatments that could hold me together for a little while.) The doctor was surprised to see that not only was I not depressed or shocked, but I was bright-faced and full of gratitude, even to the point of thanking him and the other members of the group for the wonderful care they had provided. In some ways it was almost similar to my experience in Hawaii: by the time I left the hospital, the caretakers, especially the nurses, cried as they realized I was coming back to Washington to get my leg amputated and to confront, in the near future, death. Somehow I bonded with them in a very powerful way during my visits.
The last few days have been exceptional for me. First, it has been exceptional because, for several months, I have not been able to sufficiently sleep. When the cancer was very prominent in the foot it would shake the foot every 15 minuets with pain and so, when I would try to sleep, even if I dozed off I would be awoken by the shaking or by the problem of having to urinate every hour. But in the last two days I was able to sleep over three hours without any serious waking. This is kind of ironic because, for much of my devotional life, I was meticulous about trying not to sleep up to six hours, for I felt this is Prabhupada's and Krsna's time and that I should try to be active in their service as much as possible. Now, if I could sleep six or more hours without waking up, I would see it as pure mercy. How amazingly Krsna helps to show us that we are not the controller and that we cannot capture Him in a karma-kandic mood or by austerities. The second thing is I feel I have developed even a greater appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's special offering to this world.
I just finished reading this wonderful book written by our godsister, Mulaprakriti dasi; the book is called Our Srila Prabhupada, A Friend To All. I would highly recommend that every leader in ISKCON get a copy of this book. It shares some pastimes of Srila Prabhupada from many sadhus and associates that Srila Prabhupada had interactions with before he came to America and even before he took sannyas. Mulaprakriti prabhu interviewed about eighty different devotees who share amazing ways Srila Prabhupada impacted upon them. Interviews that affected me the most were with the pujari who takes care of the deities at the house of Advaitacarya, and with a devotee named Hrdayananda Maharaj, who was a pujari in a temple next to the Radha-Damodar temple. Let me briefly share a summary of these two interviews.
In the first interview the pujari explains how Srila Prabhupada as a vanaprastha would come to his temple once or twice a month, would sit in the back for hours chanting, sobbing and crying each time he came. Then after some time he came as a sannyasi, did the same thing but was sobbing and crying even more. This time he came and spoke to the pujari and explained to him that the next day he was off to America and that he had been coming there on a regular basis since this was the place where Lord Nityananda, Lord Caitanya and Advaitacarya would meet to organize the sankirtan movement. He explained how his Gurudeva had given him an impossible mission, so he was coming there, praying that he would be able to carry out this mission. Years later the pujari started noticing western devotees coming to his temple. One day one devotee gave him a Back to Godhead, and he was shocked to see the picture of Prabhupada; he realized from this that Srila Prabhupada's mission had been successful, as he had been blessed and empowered by Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda and Advaitacarya.
The next interview that was so impacting on me was with the pujari, Hrdayananda, who explained that every night he would hear someone wailing and crying around 1:00 a.m. One day he got on top of his roof to see what was going on, and what did he see? He saw Srila Prabhupada sweeping the Radha Damodara courtyard, sobbing and crying, calling out to Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis to please help him and prepare him for this mission. The pujari mentions that he was born in Vraja, and had lived there all of his life. He had met many wonderful sadhus but never had met anyone who had such intense bhajan as Srila Prabhupada.
As I read these stories one after another, especially these two, I became overwhelmed. I found that these two draw tears out of my own crocodile eyes, for they allowed me to see even more the tremendous sacrifice and the great determination and perseverance that Srila Prabhupada had. It also helped me appreciate even more Srila Prabhupada's connection with Mahaprabhu and the Goswamis.
All of this caused me to make an appeal to Srial Prabhupada. Basically, my appeal was: "Dear Srila Prabhupada, wherever you are going to take me or send me when I leave this body, I appeal to you to first let me remain here for at least one more year to make more input with your previous services, with your ISKCON organization. Now I understand, even more than ever, how important this mission was and still is for you and your Guru Maharaja." I feel that Srila Prabhupada once again accepted my prayer. I am definitely dying (so are all of us), but I feel, as I said earlier, that I am on borrowed time.
I therefore suggest to all the temples around the world that have my pictures on the altar that they take them down, for the immediate threat of my leaving in days, weeks, or months is less likely. I love attention, affection, and compassion, especially when it is coming from so many wonderful sadhus and disciples. I still beg you, in your own ways, that you continue your prayers for me. Nothing has changed other than I seem to have been given a window or a certain short period to be functional. Perhaps after two or three months, once I get my prosthesis and after I become rather functional with it, I will set off for a last around-the-world tour so that I can be able to see all of you, offer my appreciation, receive your blessings and share what little realizations I have acquired.
This, of course, is my present plan, but let's see if this is consistently Srila Prabhupada's and Krsna's plan. I think also the prayers from so many of you to keep me here for a little while longer, even though my time in this service is more or less over, is responsible for extending my stay in this body. [So are you all my well-wishers or my greatest enemies, as you are punishing me to stay longer in this wretched body (smile)]. It is a great challenge, for one who normally has not been very sick, to all of a sudden come down with so many serious health problems. There is a price for everything and Krsna is so expert, hiding in the heart, arranging to fulfill our desires. I pray that I can desire to be a more genuine servant of all of you during this short but extended time that I have been given to get your association. How kind Srila Prabhupada is to all of us!
Srila Prabhupada himself asked for prayers that he could die in the battlefield. We see that, in such an intensely ill state, he was trying to go to the West, to Gita Nagari, and, even when he went back to Vrindavan, we could still see that he was preaching up to practically his last breath. Therefore, I am at this time feeling a greater desire to leave my body also on the battlefield. I have canceled out the idea, as of now, of going to Vrindavan or Mayapur to leave my body. More than likely I will leave from the West in Gita Nagari. However, after everything is said and done, I continue to submit myself to Srila Prabhupada to use me anyway he sees fit and to force me according to what his desires are.
P.S.: I cannot live or die; it seems I am still remaining to be stubborn? (smile)
Yours in Srila Prabhupada's service,
Bhakti Tirtha Swami