Distressed Devotees Need Empathy, Not Slokas
Posted September 29, 2010
After reading Muralidhara prabhu's article concerning the suicide of Citra devi dasi, I wanted to contribute by supporting the sentiment. Our ISKCON that was created by Srila Prabhupada is based on the principle of a family. If we live in a situation in ISKCON where there is no counselling, support and help. then this is not a representation of ISKCON and of Srila Prabhupada.
As we all go through our lives and our commitment to Srila Prabhupada we encounter reversals on the way. They can come in a number of manifestations — physically, emotionally, mental trauma, philosophical pressure, and family ups and downs. When we experience these reversals, then as humans we need support, understanding and help to get through it to a more healthy place on the other side.
Certainly, quoting texts and throwing them at a distressed person won't help a thing. There has to be a period of rehabilitation where there are others who know how to deal with the pain in a professional way. These people have been taught special techniques to employ for others to help deal with problems. They employ rest and relaxation techniques to bring you back to a place of peacefulness where the mind can operate in its proper function.
Then there are the physical rehabilitation workouts with others of a similar nature to communicate with so we can understand how others may have dealt with problems. A problem shared is a problem halved. We can meet new people and make friends on the road to being rehabilitated. This is such a good way to gain a healthy body, mind and attitude.
I had to undergo a full heart bypass operation a few years ago after suffering a heart attack. The heart attack itself was enough to change my perceptions and emotions to an alienated place, numbness and a feeling of shock. After the successful surgery I was enrolled in a holistic programme of rehabilitation which lasted six months.
Emotionally, I was all "strung out" and felt huge swings of attitude to the most normal situations. Just going back to my home after weeks in a hospital made me break down and cry my heart out. At the centre for rehabilitation I made new friends, we all worked together regularly — all different, young and old, male and female. We had two trained nurses at all times and access to medical facilities if necessary.
The second part of the course was for the mind. We learnt relaxtion techniques and had a counsellor on a one-to-one basis. On every level everything was explained to us all. Then after each session we had an open discussion for an hour or so.
My lasting problem was my memory of what happened after being anaesthetized. I had gone into a big shiny-black oval room, slipping into it from a high corner, where I lay all cold and helpless, feeling lonely and sad by myself. The memory was haunting for me, and it would not go away. Krsna was not there.
After relating this story to my therapist, she told me to write down every detail, as much as I liked, on a piece of paper, in pencil and then to burn the paper. But I modified the technique, though I followed it until the burning part. Instead, I made the paper into a little boat and placed it on a river just yards from my house. I watched it disappear and waved goodbye as it was swept away by the river. The weight immediately lifted off my mind, the haunting stopped, and the bad recollections faded away.
My point to all devotees is to find the help that you require to get you through problems. We are not alone; help is out there, and they are willing to support you through our problems. People are social animals, and this means we reciprocate with each other in a normal condition of life.
The renounced, detached, unhelpful devotee in an ISKCON centre who just throws slokas at you can be your worst enemy in times like that. You are not in a position to respond positively to that kind of behaviour. We need words of help, support and friendliness showing us that there is love and trust, that someone else cares for you affectionately and that there is a helping hand to hold.