Health Update from Bhakti-tirtha Swami
Posted November 16, 2004
The following is the most recent update in regard to HH Bhakti-Tirtha Swami's battle with cancer. To find out more information please see www.btswami.com/health.html
Nanda Sunu dasa
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am presently in Hawaii in a place that is conducive for healing. I have been in an intense fight in the last two weeks with the cancer; presently we are both in our corners in the fighting ring waiting for the bell to ring so we can continue our fighting. The cancer seems to be winning some rounds, and I am distinctly winning others.
I have presented an offer to the cancer, pretending that it is a potential friend. I have invited the cancer to stay around as long as it can help me to become a fully pure, more compassionate and potent servant of Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnavas, but to not stay one day longer than what is needed for this outcome. The cancer has agreed externally while it is still trying to see how to take my life. Although I have propositioned the cancer in this way, I am also secretly doing everything possible to destroy it once and for all.
The cancer is a demon and cannot be trusted; however, the cancer knows I am a devotee and is aware it cannot trust me either. (This is the dilemma.) The cancer has been stunned and dazed and seemingly is not able to progress at this point, but has not been fully destroyed. Next week, I will work with special treatments to block the cancer from later mutating for this is a special attack it can make in the future. Once this is done I should be on my way to a slow and steady recovery.
I am reading some of your books and quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam, listening to several of your bhajana and lecture tapes along with Srila Prabhupada's. In this way, I can still have your association during this critical time in my life. I want to thank you all for your powerful contributions.
I am presently writing a new Beggar Book with meditations on death and the near death experience. Here is a recent rough draft entry of "Die Before Dying."
Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,
Bhakti Tirtha Swami
Die Before Dying
Just as there is life, there is death. Someone or something takes birth, grows, stays for some time, deteriorates, and then dies. Another name for birth is death. You cannot have one without the other, meaning that when someone is born, someone will soon die (as most species do not live very long); and when someone dies, someone is soon born. Everyone and everything in its normal state wants to live as long as possible-eternally. Eternality, however, is not associated with matter, but is a spiritual affair. Death to matter and to our material bodies is inevitable, but if we master the science of dying before dying, we will connect with that which is eternal-our soul and its home in the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
My mother, who is deceased, often used to say, "Give me my flowers while I can still see them." As I child, I thought of it as strange, but as an adult, I thought of it as a sign of wisdom. My mother understood the body to be transient and she celebrated life-"the now," realizing one must show their love and affection for life at every moment. Our life or the lives of others will be taken away in the near future. If one lives with proper preparation and detachment, one will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
When we die before dying, we put first things first. The activities that nourish our souls and help us detach from the illusion and confusion of material culture are our priorities. Since we know that life is meant to prepare for a glorious death, we can live each day as if it is our last. Therefore, there is no time to waste on irrelevant, superfluous activities. Even when we must give time to somewhat superficial things, it must be done in a way that enhances or strengthens the primary, significant involvements. If one lives with proper preparation and detachment, one will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
There are so many offenses that can be made in devotional services. It is these offenses which are our greatest enemy. Devotional service is extremely potent, but offenses can stagnate our spiritual growth very seriously and can ever destroy the devotional creeper. Offenses are activities that try to redirect our consciousness back to previous sinful life or which serve as barriers to our unfoldment. Offenses are like a town courier who delivers an urgent message designed to distract the individual from his or her relevant and important activities. When one stops making offenses, one will live with proper preparation and detachment. One will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
So many people have cheated, disappointed, lied, manipulated, and even abused us. When we reflect on the experience, it is as if we relive it again. Such experiences have definitely shaped us in various ways. Many of these abusers and cheaters have traumatized us. In some cases, they have scarred us for life. The normal position is for the hurt or abused to seek revenge and severely punish the offender. It is easier to do but will not fully resolve the problem. What is important is for forgiveness to be the major means of addressing such problems. If one lives with proper preparation and detachment, one will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
Most people have special friends they would like to meet, places they would like to visit, and experiences they would like to have. When we meet, know, or associate with important people, it makes us more important, at least in the eyes of others. When we can travel to many exciting places, life seems to be more adventurous. Most important, when we can have many exciting experiences, life seems more meaningful. We are all pleasure seekers and are always eager to experience pleasure. But the true spiritualist does not get overwhelmed by these concerns for he understands the temporary and even illusory nature of the world. If one lives with proper preparation and detachment, one will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
Sometimes we are so busy doing things and even doing things for those we love that we don't have time to be with them, show them, or tell them how much we love them. Sometimes others are so busy doing things and doing things for us that they also have no time to be with us, show us, or tell us how much they love us. However, if we truly understand how this life is a preparation for death, we will always have time to give and receive love.
When someone dies, much of the sadness usually comes from a lack of sufficient closure in the relationships. There is something we wanted to tell them or do with them, and there is something they wanted to tell us or do with us. Each party has a tendency to procrastinate on or minimize the important opportunities and moments. Especially when a person lives solely for eating, sleeping, mating and defending, or when he or she is captured by a very strong false ego, there is a tendency to miss opportunities to be fully present. The person misses the chance to say or do what will best honor other people's highest needs as well as blocks the chance for others to honor his or her needs.
Quality association is most important. Where there is quality association, one is always either learning something or teaching something. Such association is based on being with those who also are determined to end the cycle of birth, disease, old age, and death. With quality association, one understands that just as there is life, there is death. So one acts with the knowledge that life is for self-realization, and that death, which is inevitable for matter and the material body, is not associated with the soul. We must die to live! That comes as we accept the inevitability of destruction and elimination of all matter. We can then honor the deaths that have happened and those that are manifesting, knowing that they can prepare the way for eternal life.
The true spiritualist profoundly appreciates my mother's statement, "Give me my flowers while I can see them." For once the body is gone, the soul departs for its new encounter; therefore, it is important to say and do whatever is best for all now! Where we have made offenses, we must stop them and ask for forgiveness now! While we have people to meet, places to visit, and experiences to have, we must put first things first, understanding the differences between what is temporary and what is eternal now! We must allow every day of our lives to represent healthy closure now! When we live for love, this is most natural because all of our associations will be quality associations in which we share our compassion, determination, and realizations, and receive the same from others.
This is the technology of how to celebrate life now and live with proper preparation and detachment, so that one will master the science of dying before dying so as to connect with the soul and its home-the spiritual world. After all, death is to remove everything false and secondary.
I am that lowly beggar who is desperately trying to die before dying.