Back to Godhead magazine has launched an urgent Gofundme campaign to raise funds for the cancer treatment of its longest-running servant, and is asking for support from the worldwide devotee community as time is running out.
The backbone of ISKCON is its unsung heroes – those devotees who dedicate their lives to Krishna’s service with no recognition or material gain in return.
Back to Godhead designer and layout artist Yamaraja Das is the epitome of such dedication, having served with BTG for an incredible 42 years.
Born Robert Wintermute in 1948, Yamaraja grew up outside Portland, Oregon. He attended Portland State College, then the University of Oregon in Eugene -- majoring in art -- before dropping out to dive into the ‘60s counterculture. His interest in Eastern philosophy inspired him to buy a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is in a bookstore.
After regularly visiting the ISKCON temple in Portland for a few years, he moved to New Vrindaban in 1971, drawn by the idea of living a natural life in the country. He became an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1972.
In 1973, the East Coast branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) recruited Yamaraja. Moving into the New York temple, he received training in design and layout for Srila Prabhupada’s beloved Back to Godhead magazine (BTG) as well as Prabhupada’s books.
In 1975, he moved with the BBT to Los Angeles, where he worked on BTG and BBT books. That same year, he was part of the famous successful effort to produce seventeen volumes of Caitanya Caritamrita in just two months for Prabhupada.
Since then, Yamaraja has been designing and laying out Back to Godhead magazine. For forty-two years, day in and day out, he quietly performed this service, through all kinds of austerities and personal sacrifices. He never married, and has remained a brahmachari to this day, selflessly giving his entire life to Prabhupada’s mission.
Countless people all over the world were attracted by his beautiful presentations of BTG’s Krishna conscious message and became devotees as a result. Many have stories of how they received BTG on the street or even found a discarded copy and were so affected that it changed their lives. Prison inmates have turned their lives of crime around by reading Back to Godhead in their cells. Yamaraja’s contribution to all this – his expert layouts that capture the eye – cannot be underestimated.
Besides his work with BTG, one of Yamaraja’s best-loved services has been his assistance of the late Sadaputa Das (Richard L. Thompson) in his efforts to spread Krishna consciousness through science, especially by writing books and articles. Yamaraja has designed or laid out several of the ISKCON scientist’s books, and even today he is part of a team working to keep Sadaputa’s contributions in the public eye.
Now, at 69 years old, Yamaraja is suffering from multiple myeloma cancer, considered one of the most deadly forms of the disease. He has battled it for the past ten years, keeping it under control through a strict diet and other treatments.
Recently, however, the cancer has returned. Yamaraja is currently undergoing a treatment that is intended to kill the cancerous “daughter cells,” but does not remove the cancer in the stem cells. Once this treatment stops working – as all others have – there will be no conventional medicine option left but stem-cell replacement, which is drastic, very risky, and Yamaraja doesn’t want to do it.
At that point – which will come in a matter of weeks – the conventional doctors’ only remaining solution will be to put Yamaraja on heavy painkilling drugs while the cancer spreads, creating painful lesions in every muscle.
But Yama, as he’s affectionately known, prefers instead to pursue an alternative treatment at a cancer treatment center in Mexico, while he still has the energy to travel. This center will use a natural integrative approach to build up his immune system. Going there is Yama’s last wish and holds much hope for him.
As a brahmachari, Yama has little facility to pay for such treatment. Back to Godhead magazine, which has already been subsidizing his treatment for the past ten years, will contribute some of the funds, and hopes to get international devotees’ help to raise the remaining $60,000 on Gofundme.
If, for some reason, Yamaraja is unable to travel anymore because of his deteriorating health by the time the funds are raised, they will be used to care for him at a local health care facility near his home in Alachua, Florida.
“We beg you to please give now, from your heart, for this quiet hero who has given his whole life to serve Krishna and the devotees,” reads the BTG plea. “Time is of the essence.”
Please donate here:back-to-godhead-magazine ] [ bbt ] [ btg ] [ yamaraja ]