Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
All glories to Srila Gurudev
It was early one morning during Kartik 2006 that Gurudev met with a car accident. It happened on the Vrindavan Chatikara Road, about 5 km from ISKCON’s Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana.
Gurudev was going to participate in the Govardhan Parikrama as part of the Vraja-mandala Parikrama. A tree had fallen down across the road. The driver had tried his best to avoid the tree in the darkness, but the car started to skid and turned over. Gurudev’s left hand was stuck under the car.
The narrow escape from a car crash revealed to Gurudev spiritual insights as to what is required for us to escape from this material world.
Srila Prabhupada would often say , “If you wish to remember it, write it down.” Gurudev did just that.
“After the car accident, I realized how tightly we are all caught by the illusory energy.”
By Lokanath Swami
It was 4.20am as we drove along the lonely road towards Govardhana. The early morning hours were cool and misty. Suddenly the driver of the Tata Sumo spotted a tree lying across the road. He braked and swerved to miss the tree, and as a result the car tipped over and rolled.
I was caught by my left hand which was stuck in the side of the seat. The weight of the car held me tightly. Although the rest of my body was free, I could not move. I was desperate to get out.
There is only one other time I can recall being in a similar situation. It was about 15-20 years ago. On that occasion my right hand was grabbed by our padayatra elephant, Laxmi. The elephant held me in its grip for about 15 seconds. I was struggling, but there was no way I could free myself. Only by the elephant’s kindness was I released.
After the car crash, the other devotees in the vehicle jumped out, and realizing I was stuck, attempted to lift the car. After a few minutes, I was pulled out, feeling relieved.
Caught by Illusion
As I contemplated the incident, I began to think more deeply. I realized that, actually, I am caught by the illusory energy. And the grip of the illusory energy is tight.
As Lord Sri Krsna explains:
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te [Bhagavad-gita 7.14)
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”
Lord Krsna explains that His illusory energy is “very difficult to overcome.”
It is ongoing … I am in the clutches of the illusory energy. Who knows since how long?
How can I become free? Only when I am as desperate, or more desperate, to get out of illusion as when I was in the situation of the elephant’s trunk holding me or being trapped in the car. That is the price for my release. Only when I can attain that much eagerness to be free from the illusions of this world would I finally be released and relieved.
Denial is not reality
As I was experiencing this trauma, the thought also crossed my mind that the accident had not really happened. That was not the reality. It was just a kind of dream, and I was thinking, “Yeah, it hasn’t happened. It was just my dream or something of that sort. I was imagining I was caught in the accident, but that’s not true, I’m okay.”
The situation was akin to a dream, when you are being chased by a tiger, and then you wake up and realize that there is no tiger – that you are safe at home. But that feeling did not last long. Soon I was seeing my bloody clothes and the devotees around me – concerned, shocked, scared, and caring.
However, I was still not quite ready to accept reality. I was denying the event had occurred, but I was caught red handed with the facts – blood red handed.
And, of course, the next thing was arriving at the hospital and meeting the doctor.
Lord Krsna shows His hand
Devotees did not even have to make any endeavor to find a way for me to go to the hospital. The ISKCON Vrndavana Krishna-Balarama temple vehicle was right behind our ill-fated car ready to take me to the hospital. Normally at that time of the morning there is no traffic on that road, but the vehicle was arranged by Lord Krsna.
It is said that not one blade of grass moves without the will of the Supreme Lord. Lord Krsna, who had slapped me by putting me into that situation, also had arranged immediate, on-the-spot transportation for me. I was seeing the Lord’s hand in the situation. Where could we have found a vehicle at that time of the night? Usually it would have taken many hours.
So, before I could even complain, Krsna was already showing His kindness.
Krsna’s natural healing arrangement
Then we were on our way to the hospital. Although we had an idea of its location, setting back from the highway, we missed it and past it by about 5km. We had to turn around. During the extra time before we reached the emergency room, some thoughts were going through my mind. I was contemplating that by Krsna’s natural arrangement the process of curing, healing, recuperation and repair had already started.
I was thinking that repair to the body doesn’t depend so much on the doctor and the hospital. For a period of time the body is in a bewildered state, but soon the internal assessment of the damage is complete. Immediately, the elements and forces within the body, combined with nature’s intelligence, gets into action to begin repairing the body.
Yantrarudhani mayaya [Bg.18.61]
The soul is seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. The body is like a machine. It is the only machine that heals itself.
The human body is an amazing machine made by an amazing Creator.
Stitching the body back together
As I was on the examination table, the doctors were doing their job. They were stitching the wounds. I was under a local anaesthetic so I was fully awake and aware of what they were doing. I saw them with a needle and thread stitching closed the holes in my body – just like one stitches holes in the cloth. Then I was reminded and further convinced of Lord Krishna’s explanation in the Bhagavad-gita in which He compares the body with a garment:
vasaasi jereani yatha vihaya… … [Bg.2.22]
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”
I was filled with pain. I visited the doctors almost every day. They were not doing much, just changing the bandage and applying some ointment. The healing was not in their hands. And certainly, I wasn’t doing anything – I don’t know how to heal.
I was just lying silently and tolerating the pain. My activities were mostly resting, and taking some prasada occasionally. Sometimes I was meeting visitors. I was not involved with healing or curing. The doctors’ involvement was minimal.
When I was wondering why the healing was so slow, and wasn’t there any way to expedite the process, I realized that nature takes its own time. It has to bring in building materials and create new cells. Some cementing is required, and then the next cell is produced. The cement, bricks, and a process of production and construction is required to form the new skin, even down to the small protruding hairs. It’s amazing. What a work! Maintain the shape, levelling it, filling in the gaps. I was closely watching and appreciating. It is ongoing. Even while I was asleep, the building work continued. And nature doesn’t stop until its goal is reached – constantly endeavoring, thinking and planning. There is a whole timeline for the reconstruction of the damaged body parts.
It’s Krsna’s intelligent design behind all this – a complete intelligence in this operation constantly in action.
Blessing in Disguise
Because my hand was out of action, my assistant, Abhinanda Dasa, was my helping hand, for which I am very much grateful and thankful to him. Whether putting on tilak, putting on a dhoti, or getting up from lying down, I needed someone’s help. I was thinking how our Krsna-given hand is so useful in extending all sorts of assistance. We just take it for granted.
When I had to depend on others, I realized how much help the hand provides. Of course, Krsna has given us hands and many other parts. We should thank Him many times over for what He has given us.
This Kartik, I was thinking of maintaining seclusion. After my parikrama duties, and some obligations at the Krishna-Balarama temple for classes or kirtanas, for the rest of the time I had an idea of being by myself for personal studies, etc. However, as the news spread of the accident, I was constantly overwhelmed by devotee visits and association.
For the past 20 years, I have been visiting Vrndavana during Kartik, and I never had so many guests as during this Kartik. So, man proposes and God disposes. That is the conclusion.
I wanted to be by myself in seclusion, but that didn’t work. With the accident also came a blessing in disguise. That blessing was devotee association. Day and night for more than a week, I was constantly being visited by devotees, including seniors and juniors, leaders and lay devotees. I felt as I was in a fortunate position. And, of course, there was also so much telephone calling and an overwhelming number of emails.
As I was healing, I also was thinking that this was a procedure for the healing of relationships.
Through the years, I felt that some of my relationships had developed stress and strain, ill feelings and misunderstandings. During this week, when devotees were coming to visit me and contact me, the rough spots in our relationships dissolved. We were ready to forgive and forget by transcending misunderstandings. By the expressions of concern and well wishing, I experienced not only a healing of my body, but also a healing of my relationships.
Calamities can be blessings
This calamity was a blessing for bringing the family of Vaisnavas together. Healing relationships brings Srila Prabhupada’s family together.
We had a similar realization and experience during Srila Prabhupada’s final days. Having Prabhupada in the center was drawing everyone closer to him and at the same time closer to each other.
These calamities have a positive role to play. They bring out the best in the devotees. During the calamities in the life of Vaisnavas, the whole community also comes together. Everyone wants to be on the good side of the person. Devotees begin thinking in a positive way and begin glorifying that Vaisnava. We should glorify that Vaisnava while he is still present, and not glorify him only after his departure.
Monkey on the stick
I also thought that I was the “monkey on the stick.” Usually the farmer hangs one monkey on the stick. He may be a dead monkey or an artificial monkey. When other monkeys see it, they are careful to stay away from the farmer’s agricultural produce. They become careful and cautious. By my accident, other devotees should be reminded to be careful so that they are not caught in such a position.
Words of Wisdom
tat te ‘nukampaa su-sameknamaeo… … [SB.10.14.8]
“My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.”
These were the words of consolation of one of my visitors, a dear scholarly devotee. He reminded me of the above statement. He quoted the verse and explained patiently. This patient listened humbly and attentively. Now the verse was making more sense than ever before.
I had no complaint. I just deserved it. I should patiently suffer reactions. It is Krishna’s merciful arrangement.
Many devotees were thanking the Lord that He had arranged for me to leave the accident with only a hand injury, and not the head or heart. Although we deserve so much more, it is common for Krsna to give just a token punishment.
Time is Krsna.
It is like my life has been extended. It has made me sober. It has made me think, reflect and transform. I need to get my act together. It has brought me a little closer to the Lord and to the devotees.
Time is limited. There is no more time to be frivolous or fooling around. The woods are lovely, dark and deep and miles to go before we sleep. It is long way away from “back home”.
NOW is a time to develop more detachment from worldly involvements and thoughts. It would be nice to develop love of Godhead and the mood of pure unalloyed devotional service. Do not postpone till later times.
The situation reminds me of an analogy. Just as a rich man who has a lot of money at his disposal doesn’t have to be so worried how often and how much he spends, the poor man has to think twice while spending every penny because he doesn’t have so many pennies at his disposal, I feel that I am becoming a bit elderly, and just got a little extension of time here on this planet. One in this situation must be very frugal while spending that time.
Time is Krsna. It should be spent to gain Krsna – and nothing else. There is no time for anything other than Krsna’s interest.