13 May 2003
Yesterday afternoon a party of six devotees plus myself drove for several
hours from Amsterdam to Maastrich. Here I gave a talk at a student society
that is directed by a Christian pastor named Roel Bosch. Unfortunately,
Pastor Bosch had been called away to a funeral and was not present.
But my Godbrother HG Gurupadma Prabhu, who lives and preaches in Maastrich,
arrived with some of his namahatta members. So the audience was
a composite of students and ISKCON devotees and congregation.
Meeting His Grace Gurupadma Prabhu
We had kirtan for about 20 minutes in the beginning, and then at 8:00 PM I commenced with a talk. Pastor Bosch had left word that he was interested in the subject of the three modes of material nature and how they affect human consciousness. By the Lord's grace I found inspiration in this subject, and spoke for an hour and twenty minutes. There were several good questions afterward. I stopped at 9:30 PM. Several students came to me afterward to express their appreciation and thanks for the talk.
The Maastrich program
The drive back was long; I didn't take rest until around 1:00 AM. Today (Tuesday May 13) we are going to Nijmegen for program that, mercifully, is in the afternoon. We'll leave Michael's flat at 1:00 PM.
I do love this preaching. Last night while I was speaking I realized that if somehow I could just do this "24-7" (an up-to-date phrase which means "24 hours a day, 7 days a week") then I would be perfectly happy. But having these material bodies prevents that. Instead, because of these bodies, keeping up such a program of long drives and late nights is taxing. But it is solid devotional service.
Such taxing but solid service is humbling; it obliges the heart to reach out to Krsna's lotus feet, to take the holy name more reverently. Sometimes during these drives to and fro I think, "What would happen if my life in this body were to abruptly end now?" The only answer I can find is to simply close my eyes and try to chant the Lord's holy name more seriously.
Some days ago at the Amsterdam temple, I recollected for the devotees an auto accident I experienced in 1991. This was when I was traveling with my Godbrother Avinasa Chandra Prabhu (now HH AC Bhakti Vaibhava Maharaja) in Romania. At that time ISKCON had no permanent center in this country. We were in two vehicles. Avinasa Prabhu and myself were in a white Fiat van following Romanian-born Harshi das in his car. With Harshi was Krishna das, a nice Dutch devotee who now lives in Vrndavana and keeps a guest house for ISKCON devotees there.
Night had fallen. A full moon sometimes peeked out from behind a thick
layer of clouds. So it was mostly very dark out. We were in the region
of Romania called Transylvania, which has a spooky reputation. The
way this accident happened seems to confirm that there is something unearthly about that place.
Avinasa Prabhu was driving. We had lost sight of Harshi's car; he had
driven too far ahead. The road we were on was a straight, lonely, two-lane
stretch of asphalt lined by trees on both sides. All at once
something happened that was most bizarre. The wheels of our van seemed to no longer be in touch with the road surface. The van began drifting into the left lane, even though Avinasa Prabhu steered to keep it in our
lane. Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic.
In desperation he turned the steering wheel all the way to the right. The van kept drifting leftward for one or two seconds more, then suddenly
the wheels seemed to connect again to the road surface. Because the
front wheels were now turned totally to the right, the whole vehicle went into a spin. The last thing I remember of the accident is just sitting there, observing without any emotion whatsoever, as the van went
backwards off the right side of the road. There was a bump, the sound of broken glass, and then blackness came over me.
I clearly recall floating in a void. I was so removed from this body and mind that I could not even think. I was just there, enveloped in total insentience. Then gradually the thought dawned on my that I might be dead. I wanted to chant Sri Krishna's name. That desire connected me to my tongue. I began chanting, and consciousness spread to the rest of my body. I felt a dull pain in my ribs and in my left forearm. I found myself lying face-down in the dirt of a potato field.
I slowly got up. Behind me, the van was on its roof. The
cab of the van, where Avinasa Prabhu and I had been sitting, was crushed.
We were fortunate that at the time of the crash to have not been wearing
belts. Both of us had been thrown through the windscreen onto the soft sandy soil of the field. Had we been secured in those seats we would have either been killed or seriously injured.
I wobbled around on my feet. I saw Avinasa Prabhu laying on the ground off to one side; he seemed unconscious or dead, but at last he stirred and moaned. I tried to help him stand, but he was in too much pain (it turned out that a couple of his ribs were cracked).
I prayed to Lord Nrsimhadeva, and within seconds, I found myself looking at a picture of Lord Nrsimhadeva that we'd kept on the dashboard of the van. I picked it up off the ground and held it pressed to my heart. By doing that, some intelligence seemed to enter my brain.
I wanted my bead bag. Where was it? The moon was behind clouds; everything was dark. I stumbled around a little until I caught sight of the bead bag on the ground just in front of me, almost between at my feet, amidst other debris from inside the van that was now scattered around the potato field. With a cry of joy I picked up my beads and began chanting on them.
Then I started thinking about flagging down a car and getting Avinasa
Prabhu to a hospital. But I knew once I commenced that process of involving
the locals in our accident, I would need my passport and laksmi.
Where was that? The last I'd seen of my billfold was that it was on the dashboard of the van. So I stumbled around a little more in the dark, chanting and keeping Lord Nrsimha to my heart, and in a few seconds
found the billfold containing my personal papers and money. I have to tell you, dear reader, that I was so dazed, and it was so dark, and there was so much stuff (books, suitcases, and so on) scattered about the van, that without the Lord's guidance from within the heart I would not have been able to locate the picture of Nrsimha, my bead bag, and my wallet.
In a few minutes a car, a typical Romanian Dacia (a knock-off of a 1962 Peugeot), came along. I lurched up to the roadside, waving it down. It stopped. Two men, both former Army guys, got out. They knew exactly what to do with Avinasa Prabhu, how to lift him and set him in the back of their vehicle without worsening his injuries. In the light of their headlights I looked myself over. I was dirty and bloodstained. The flesh of the back of my left forearm was torn by broken glass. There was no room in the little Dacia for me, so the two Romanians drove Avinasa to the hospital and I flagged down a truck that came by a little later.
Riding in the truck, I soon I saw Harshi's car parked by the side of
the road. I told the driver to let me out, and I accompanied a shocked
Harshi and Krishna das to the hospital. The doctors treated my arm and
made me stay overnight in the observation ward when they noticed I was trembling from the shock of the whole experience. They had already committed Avinasa Prabhu to a room in the emergency ward. He had to stay there for three days.
The next morning I went with Harshi to the site of the accident. It turned out that two other vehicles, a truck and a car, had also lost control along the same strip of road. Unfortunately for the driver/passengers, both these vehicles had collided with roadside trees. Our Fiat had run off the road at a point where a tree had been cut down. We traced the tracks of the van right over the stump. Had the tree still been standing, I might not be standing now.
I looked at the road surface. There was just no physical explanation why a car's tires would lose their grip on that asphalt. It was hard and dry. I found no patches of oil anywhere. Harshi asked the police, who were there to investigate the three accidents, how such a thing could happen--in the same night, on the same stretch of road, three vehicles lose control. The cops had no answer either. They just shrugged their shoulders.
Anyway, we recovered our property from the van and arranged the transportation of Avinasa Prabhu to Germany. He stayed on ISKCON's farm in Bavaria where it took him a month to recover. I still have scars on my forearm from the broken glass.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.