Chakra Living

Turn It Over To Krishna

by Sankirtana Das
New Vrindavan

Posted December 23, 2003

It has been a over a week since I have been back from my visit to the hospital. I had tried to write something earlier but I found it too exhausting to sustain a train of thought for any amount of time. Besides, just thinking about my recent experience stirred up and accented the aches and pains of my lingering cardiac condition.

I am happy to say that I am beginning to feel a little rested now. Of course, in the hospital there was certainly no chance of getting any decent amount of rest. The hospital staff comes in at any time, day or night, to poke you with needles or take your temperature or get your blood pressure. Sometimes doctors enter abruptly by themselves or with a group of students to ask you a series of questions, only to leave as abruptly as they came. Those who inhabit this world, keenly observing patient's charts and medical test results, usually are too busy to learn very much about the people they are caring for. But all in all, I'm glad I was there and I am glad to be back.

It all began several weeks ago when my heart started racing while I was telling the story of Krishna and Sudama at the temple for the assembled guests. I was thinking that my storytelling was my only service at the temple and I didn't want my condition to disturb that service. I might have even been selfishly thinking that I am here in front of the Deities, engaged in Krishna katha, and if it must be, it would be a perfect way to die. But fate would not have it. I went home that night and tried to relax as I listened to a CD of Prabhupada chanting. The next day I went to the emergency room and found out that I indeed had a heart attack. Up until then I didn't think it was anything too serious because I did not experience the sever chest pains which accompanied my first heart attack nine years before. I was even feeling relaxed and was thinking that I would soon be going home after the testing. But when the doctor informed me of my condition, it felt as if I were hit over the head with a hammer and I immediately broke into a cold sweat. Such is the power of words over the mind.

During a ten day period I was in three hospitals. First in Moundsville. Then, after several days, they took me to Wheeling Hospital where they performed a catheterization in which they shot colored dye into my heart and took pictures to determine exactly what the problem was and how many blocked arteries I have. They found two severely blocked arteries, and an aneurysm (which was a result of my first heart attack - a bulging part of a damaged heart due to thinning of the heart wall in that area).

The last leg of my hospital visits took place two days later when I had an appointment with a heart specialist in Morgantown. I still felt lingering sensations in my arm and chest and went to the ER there at Ruby Hospital. Again they admitted me. They didn't want to take any chances when they found out about my condition. That was Friday. On Saturday I began agonizing about being in the Morgantown hospital. What was I doing there??? Test records had been sent from the Wheeling Hospital and were lost in transit; it was the weekend and who knows when the records would be resent; the doctors are saying they can't make any decisions until they receive the images from the catheterization; my records were lost in their system and I was in limbo; who knows how long I would be there; perhaps I should just check myself out!!!!! This time my mind was racing.

Through all this my wife was a source of extraordinary support, inspiration and advice. "Stop trying to figure things out. Just turn it over to Krishna." All right then - I'll try it. Just this once to see what iit's like. I made a supreme effort to "just turn it over to Krishna" meditating intently on the Holy Names.

Amazingly enough, on Sunday the catheterization results showed up. They had been resent with an ambulance which was bringing a patient from Wheeling Hospital to Ruby. In the meantime I had struck up a conversation with one of the nurses who attended to me. She was from Iran and had visited New Vrindavan. She explained how she had stayed over night and had gone to the morning program and enjoyed her visit. On Monday morning while I chanted japa in my room, she came in again and chanted along with me for several minutes. We spoke together about spiritual life on several occasions and promised to keep in touch. Later that morning at 8:30, I was about to have breakfast. My tray was before me in bed. I had just poured some honey over my oatmeal and was literally lifting the spoon to my mouth, when the head doctor in the cardiac ward, came running in. "Don't eat anything," he shouted. He had just looked at the test results from Wheeling and decided to perform an angioplasty later that day and it had to be done on an empty stomach. So Krishna was kind me. I was getting a little taste of what happens when you "just turn it over to Krishna." Although I might not see a plan, Krishna has a purpose for everything. And the next day I was out of the hospital.

As it turned out, the angioplasty opened only one of the blocked arteries. The other one was too densely blocked for the procedure to work. But the blocked one had collateral arteries (which I might add not everyone has) which actually saved me when I had my first heart attack in that section of the heart. For now the doctors want to observe the aneurysm which is a serious condition that might require an operation. They also found an occasional irregular heart beat, and there's talk of wanting to implant some electrical device that gives the patient an electric wallop whenever the heart becomes irregular (it seems that Krishna has a similar system for irregular devotees).

Out of all this, I am most grateful for the support from my immediate family and the expression of love and concern from my extended family of devotees who have visited me, called me, and prayed for me. (Your prayers have meant so much to me.) I also feel fortunate that I had the heart attack at home, close to friends and family. Considering the amount of traveling that I do, taking my storytelling programs to schools, colleges, etc, I could have been stricken anywhere, alone or surrounded by strangers. I have stopped my travels for the time being, and I'll have to wait and see just how much strength I can muster up for travels in the future.

Srila Prabhupada explains that at the time of death we each have to ultimately fly our airplanes alone. But it's good to know that there are people on the ground who can cheer us on in that final solo flight. We are powerless and can do nothing by ourselves. We are here to help one another. There is a Jewish saying that every blade of grass has an angel standing over it encouraging it to grow. Throughout our lives we must take the help, guidance, prayers and encouragement of guru, Krishna, the assembled devotees, as well as many, many others who we encounter at various junctions in our lives, who we may not recognize, but who are sent by guru and Krishna to assist us on our journey. Some how or other Krishna is trying to teach this old dog to just keep turning it over to Him - to see His Divine Hand in everything that happens.

In closing, I leave you with this quote which I came upon recently. It is an excerpt of a message by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to his disciples just before he passed away:

"Make your way through this impermanent, transitory life in whatever way you can, keeping the goal of worshiping the Lord foremost in your minds. Don't abandon this goal, even in the face of hundreds of dangers, insults, or persecutions. Don't lose your spirit if you see that the majority of people cannot accept the principle of selfless service to the Supreme Lord. Never abandon your bhajana, hearing and chanting Krishna-katha, the be-all and end-all of your devotional life. Please always chant the name of the Lord, being humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than the tree."

Sankirtana Das was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1973. For many years he was involved in developing devotional dramas. Over the last ten years he has traveled extensively as a multicultural storyteller, offering programs and workshops in schools, colleges, temples, churches, conferences, etc. For more information on his project and the Vedic Storytelling Institute & Storytelling Center contact SMALL>