Prague, Czech Republic
16 August 2004
On Saturday morning, Murari Krsna Prabhu drove me from Timisoara across Hungary to the Hungarian-Slovakian border. Saturday afternoon Raghunatha-priya Prabhu picked me up and drove me to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. I stayed overnight in his apartment and gave the Sunday feast program in Govinda's restaurant in the city center. After that Raghunatha-priya drove me to Prague.
I am here to pick up a visa for the Ukraine. It's been a rather involved process this year to get that done. I applied for it over a month ago. This afternoon, I'm supposed to get this visa finally stamped into my passport. We'll see.
I'm not planning to stay in Prague long...in a couple days I should be off to Wroclaw, Poland. This weekend I am to take part in a Polish Yatra Festival at New Santipur, the ISKCON farm which is outside of Wroclaw. On Monday 23rd, if all has gone well with my visa today, I am to fly to Odessa in the Ukraine to take part in the yearly yatra festival there.
Let me share with my In2-MeC readers some emails I've received lately about HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaja's health. The news is not pleasant. The GBC and his disciples request devotees everywhere to pray for their spiritual master's welfare; I hope the readers of In2-MeC will not fail to do so. HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaja is my old friend from the BBT Library days. It is very painful for me to read of his health problems. But since his life is fully in Krsna's hands, I know that whatever happens, it is for the transcendental best. He is a great soul, situated above the distresses of the material body, so we should be confident that he is not really suffering.
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I spoke this morning with HH BT Swami, and I have some unfortunate news from him. He discovered yesterday that he has Melanoma cancer. His tumor was very large, larger than they expected. The doctor suspected cancer, and then they confirmed it, and gave him the news yesterday. The doctor suspects that it has spread to other parts of his body. The cancer seems to be at an advanced stage. By material standards, they would give him a less than 50% chance of survival, even as low as 17-19%. But by Krsna's grace he can recover.
He is undergoing tests today, to see if indeed it has spread to other areas. He said that he has felt some gurgling sensation in his lungs, and some pain in his groin area, which are typical areas attacked by this cancer. We should know by tomorrow. Based on that information, he will decide what to do next. It is unusual that melanoma attacks black-bodied persons.
He feels a bit discouraged that his main means of association and interchange with vaisnavas, which is dancing, will most probably be permanently affected.
I told him that all of us will be praying for his recovery, and he asked me to post this on the GBC conference. Since he has made put much emphasis on prayer in his lectures and writings, we should all prayer ardently for his quick recovery.
Guru Prasad Swami
Below is a summary of Saturdays class that Maharaja gave. its written by youth devotee in this area--Gaura Vani Dasi--So far I haven't seen anything written about the class (I may have missed some emails though--so sorry if this info has been already summarized) so I thought it best to send this over now--to Gaura Dasi--if you are on this list, I hope its ok I forwarded this email over.
Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja gave a darshan this morning at the preaching center in Silver Spring, Maryland. I was scheduled to work today, so I went over intending to stay for a little while then go off to my job. I got there in the middle of guru-puja and it was too much to leave. Too important to step away from. After guru-puja, we assembled in his room upstairs. It was tight, maybe 40 devotees sitting and standing close together. About 15 more arrived over the course of the morning.
He started with singing Jaya Radha Madhava. Many of us were crying. Next, he gave us the medical rundown. The melanoma cancer is in stage 4, which is pretty high. The test results were given to another doctor and she said it was at the very least stage 4. The chance for survival is 7-19% at this level, this intensity. He's known about the tumor for about 20 years. They decided not to operate at that time because he would've lost most of the function of the left foot. Ten years ago there was a biopsy. Results said it was benign.
In Mayapur this spring, he started to feel some pain. Then swelling, more pain. He couldn't attend Detroit Rathayatra as a result. He sat on Jagannatha's cart for Gita Nagari Rathayatra. Normally he's the dancing dervish, as some of you well know. He then shared some themes from his 2004 Vyasa Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada. He saw so much suffering in the secular world and in ISKCON; broken marriages, abused children, devotees losing faith, leaders not being accountable, etc.
So he prayed to be an instrument for Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, to take on the suffering of others so they could be more purified, take on whatever is necessary to make a change in the society.
He emphasized how it's up to Krsna and Prabhupada. How he wants to be an instrument for change however that may take shape. He said "How can I continue living so well, travelling, taken care of in each place I visit, giving classes and seminars, etc, when we have devotees on welfare, who are losing faith, when some of our children leave and are upset and hurting, .... if I can lessen their pain so they can grow, let me take it."
He shared how he doesn't want the devotees to pray for him to stay, he wants them to pray to Krsna and Prabhupada to allow him to serve in the best possible way, be it leaving, staying, whatever. He smiled and laughed a few times, in that particular way of his, with his shoulders shaking a little and his head back.
Then came questions. This is a summary of a few questions. "Can you direct us (his disciples) where to go for siksa when you go, whenever that may occur?"
Reply: "That's a highly individual thing. There are many who are qualified; maybe an older godbrother, godsister, anyone. Better if you can receive guidance and help from many sources. Krsna can come in so many ways. It's not just you and your guru."
"How can we balance between the urgent necessity of practicing KC day to day and also dealing with everything else; job, family, business of living, etc.?"
Reply: "The two are not separate. We can adopt the mood of the paramour, who takes great care to make everything alright and nice with the husband but who also loves and cares for her beloved. Otherwise we can become schizophrenic, split. Take care of both."
In relation to this question, I've heard him say in the past that we need to take care of it all otherwise it's a problem. For example, make laxmi so you don't have to worry about laxmi. He was optimistic, with both a somber demeanor and then smiling and laughing a few times.
We are trying to get a transcription to share. Perhaps an audio weblink too.
Gaura Vani dasi
You may recall that in In2-MeC of 17 July, I wrote about a Godbrother named Jamadagni das. I told how he changed his name to Indra Armstrong. Well, within the last couple of days I have discovered that he is featured in a short video interview that is part of a "mockumentary" film called Nothing So Strange. Here is a screenshot of old Indraji talking to the camera:
A search of the Internet reveals that he apparently is a representative of a Los Angeles show business agency. I came up with this address:
Agency West Entertainment
6255 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
I guess it's because his professional involvement in the LA entertainment industry that he took part in the film Nothing So Strange.
I found this movie quite interesting. It fits with the theme of "truth" that I've been writing about repeatedly in In2-MeC. I don't think Nothing So Strange has had much play-time in cinemas, if any at all. But it is downloadable from the Internet. Here are some relevant web addresses from the credits at the end of the movie:
As I mentioned earlier, Nothing So Strange is a "mockumentary." This is a film genre that has become more noticeable since The Blair Witch Project, which you may have heard of. The Blair Witch Project was a big hit in the latter 1990s. It was a cheapo horror flick made to look like a real documentary report about a haunted forest. Since Blair Witch, a movie that pretends to be a true-life documentary but is really a fictional drama is called a mockumentary.
The title of Nothing So Strange is taken from a statement attributed to Daniel Webster in 1830: "There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange." The film purports to follow the development of a grassroots movement in Los Angeles called Citizens for Truth. This movement came about in the wake of the assassination of the multi-billionaire founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, in 1999. Oh, you didn't know that the world's richest man was killed by a rifleman during a public appearance in L.A.? Well, Nothing So Strange has video footage to prove it!
Citizens for Truth claims that there was a governmental cover-up as to what really happened that day. The official story is that a sniper named Alek Hidell gunned Gates down from a vantage point on top of a hotel. (Alek Hidell was an alias that Lee Harvey Oswald used.) Within minutes after Gates was shot, the LAPD killed Hidell as he was trying to flee the hotel. But Citizens for Truth is sure that Hidell is innocent and that somebody else--"the Running Man" caught on a short video clip by a bystander--is the actual assassin.
Nothing So Strange is a very postmodern look at the problems of establishing anything with certainty in today's world of information technology. Although what I've described of the plot sounds preposterous, the movie presents itself with complete seriousness. In fact I am sure that if your average ISKCON devotee, typically not very well-informed about current events, would watch Nothing So Strange, he or she would think the film is really what it purports to be. "Wow, I didn't know Bill Gates was assassinated!" That's the irony at the heart of the film: it examines with in-depth forensic care the "truth" of an event that never happened!
Here's the credit the film gives to Indra Armstrong at the end:
Back in the early '70's, Jamadagni was a good friend of mine. While I do not condone his confrontation with Srila Prabhupada--which I described on July 17--I'm glad to see that he's at least doing something of note in the material world. Nothing So Strange is a quite educational look at the grave difficulties faced by those who try to arrive at the truth by sense inspection, reconstructive speculation, and argumentative discussion. As I watched the Citizens of Truth meet to discuss the Bill Gates assassination, I repeatedly thought to myself, "Hey, this film should be shown to the GBC at the start of the next Mayapur meeting."