In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells us "By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work." Partha-sarathi Dasa is a devotee of Lord Krishna. Currently “his own work” is being a U.S. army soldier on active service in Iraq. Despite his circumstances, he is providing an example we can all draw on: In any situation you can be Krishna Conscious, not only in the best of times, but also in the worst of times.
Recently Partha-sarathi received a combat award for acts of courage, honor and heroism during the mass casualty evacuation of 56 Iraqi civilians during an artillery attack. It was noted in the report that "at no time did he waiver or hesitate to render aid to casualties regardless of age, sex, nationality nor gruesomeness." This was certainly the worst of times.
When asked how his Krishna Consciousness supported him in the situation he replied, "I would say it has helped me remain calm in these situations. It's just a body, I know the soul is eternal. Plus as devotees we should be compassionate, we should give ourselves to everyone we meet. I try to apply this every day of my life."
The report which led to his combat award tells us that Partha-sarathi's efforts were vital not only to diagnozing and priortizing evacuation of casualties but actually treating complex injuries with no other medical personnel and minimal medical supplies.
"I am not in any way trying to make myself seem as a pure soul at all," he said. "That night when those explosions went off, I knew something was going to happen. When the first car pulled up with bloodied children stacked on top of each other, I didn't see Iraqis, I saw devotees needing assistance. I saw the horrors of the material world manifest in front of me, and Krishna was allowing me to do some service. I exposed myself, not to impress anyone, but simply because they needed help."
The lesson is not that every devotee should become a soldier, but that every soldier can become a devotee. Regardless of our situation, or of the political or economic environment we are in, we can gain inspiration from Partha-sarathi's clear example that it is the consciousness with which you face your karma that matters.
"For me being in Iraq is neither an austerity, nor is it a hellish condition," Parthasarathi said. "It is a place I ended up, somehow or other, a place where I can freely give the message of Sri Caitanya to so many souls."
Being a soldier is secondary to the activities he undertakes as a devotee. "To me it is what I owe Srila Prabhupada. He gave up so much to help us, he endured so many obstacles," Partha-sarathi said. "I am not a pure soul. I am struggling like any other soul in the material world. But by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada he has given me the gift of devotional service. To keep it to myself is miserly."
Partha-sarathi says his work is not about the insurgency and it is not about supporting the current government of America. It is about following in the footsteps of great devotees and giving our hearts to all we meet.
"I just thank the Lord every day that He has some service for me." Partha-sarathi said. He maintains his Krishna consciousness by trying to stay as strict as possible. "I try and take shelter in my service and my Guru's instructions," he said.
When asked what advice he has for us Partha-sarathi said "All I can say is that it is a shame it took me coming to Iraq to appreciate ISKCON and the devotees in it. I had been using excuses for so long about why not to really get into my Krishna consciousness. Don't make the same mistake as me."