On May 1st, 2nd and 8th, devotees from all over Brazil and beyond attended the “Art of Caring for Vaishnavas” Zoom webinar by Vaishnavas CARE co-founder Sangita Devi Dasi, which offered training in how to lovingly serve devotees, especially those experiencing terminal illnesses.
Altogether 80 people registered for the course including participants from the North and South of Brazil, several generations, senior devotees, brahmacharis, congregational members, newcomers, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, members of ISKCON Brazil’s national administration (CGB) and medical professionals.
“The seminar covered several topics related to hospice care, such as the stages of grieving, how to help and serve families, symbolic loss, emotional and spiritual pains, and the importance of good communication,” says Ekanistha Radha Devi Dasi, a member of the team responsible for ISKCON Brazil’s Department of Vaishnavas CARE.
“The teachings were far beyond expectations. The topics were gradually introduced and deepened with mastery by Sangita Devi Dasi, leading to discussion of real situations. Thus the theoretical concepts were joined by practical examples of care for vaishnavas who are leaving this world. We are sure that participants now will be able to better assist vaishnavas in their final moments, in addition to being able to support families.”
Along with Ekanistha Radha, the other members of the Vaishnavas CARE team in Brazil are Gadadhara Pandita Das, Indulekha Devi Dasi, Lila Madhuri Devi Dasi, and Vrajabhumi Devi Dasi. This team coordinates and encourages the planning of national efforts in caring for vaishnavas. The members are also part of the Brazilian Governmental Council of ISKCON and can discuss issues at national, regional and local levels.
Also assisting in planning the seminar were Yogini Devi Dasi, who works as a professional interpreter in the UK, for simultaneous interpretation; Laksmi Priya Mani Devi Dasi from Teresópolis and Matsya Das from Porto Alegre for consecutive interpretation; two Bhakti Sastri students from Instituto Jaladuta, Ivan Azevedo and Marcos Alves, for technical support; and Rasa Rasika Devi Dasi from Curitiba for financial matters.
“We certainly hope that after having attended the seminar, devotees are inspired and will inspire others to be trained and launch Vaishnavas CARE teams in their respective communities,” Ekanistha Radha says. “If Krishna allows it, there will be a favorable ripple effect and more devotees will be interested in the matter of caring for vaishnavas. Senior devotees have attended the event, and this may facilitate the establishment of Vaishnavas CARE teams; we are very enthusiastic about that.”
The results could be transformational.
“We look forward to a more humane and welcoming ISKCON that can provide emotional, therapeutic and psychological support to devotees in vulnerable and abusive situations, while also offering help to people in mental distress,” says Ekanistha Radha. “In other words, a holistic care is necessary.
“We dream of Vaishnavas CARE teams in every temple, community and congregation in ISKCON projects in Brazilian territory, with solid support and a professional assistance network, as well as financial sponsors to support devotees in need. Each generation of devotees will face specific challenges, so we are alert.”
The Brazilian Department of Vaishnavas CARE is fond of a song written by Narsinh Mehta, called Vaishnava Jana To, in which it is said that vaishnavas feel the pain of others, and try to help in the best possible way.
“This is aligned to the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada, who has always been very concerned with the welfare of the devotees,” Ekanistha Radha says. “Our Vaishnava tradition is full of moments of caring for vaishnavas, like the sons of Pandu taking care of Queen Kunti, and even Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself holding Haridas Thakur in his lap while Haridas left this world. Srila Prabhupada demonstrated holistic care for his disciples, including medicating them when they were sick. In addition, two of ISKCON’s seven purposes revolve around uniting members, and care is essential to achieving such unity.”
The CARE Department of ISKCON Brazil hopes that news of their efforts will encourage all ISKCON members to strengthen the essential culture of caring for vaishnavas.
“More devotees, happy devotees!” Ekanistha Radha says with a smile.
Vaishnavas CARE Brazil is happy to receive messages via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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