On February 9th, beloved Grihastha Vision Team member and premarital counselor Karnamrita Dasa passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Karnamrita Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1970. For fourteen years, he lived in various ISKCON temples around the world. In the beginning of his devotional service, he participated in street sankirtana and book distribution, and eventually became a head cook and pujari, specializing in emergency devotional service.
After marrying, he did extensive personal growth work and realized the importance of such healing as an adjunct to devotional service. Trained in many energy-healing modalities, he incorporated healing into his life, work, and service.
He often worked with his wife, Arcana Siddhi Devi Dasi, a licensed clinical social worker, in premarital counseling and couple’s therapy. Together they presented workshops with spiritual and/or personal growth themes throughout the world, including workshops for the GVT.
Karnamrita had a blog on Krishna.com and published a book, Give to Live, available through Amazon. He is also co-author of Heart and Soul Connection: A Devotional Guide to Marriage, Service, and Love.
Below, his friends and colleagues from the Grihastha Vision Team remember a much-loved devotee:
Partha Dasa and Uttama Devi Dasi:
On February 9th, a most dear friend and fellow Grihastha Vision Team member, Karnamrita Prabhu left this world. Karnamrita was someone who cared about others in a deep meaningful way and devoted his life to make the lives of others better; someone who knew the meaning of love and lived it through his words and actions; someone who made everyone feel relaxed, valued and accepted.
Karnamrita always added an element of humor and lightness that would allow even a six-hour meeting to pass like a few moments. In our numerous meetings, we always knew that one of Karnam’s quips might be coming around the corner, and he never failed to deliver.
With the loss of his and Krsnanandini’s association, a large void is left in our hearts. Rather than praying for the wellbeing of these two great souls after their departures, I pray that from their exalted destinations with Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, they will look down and pray for us.
Ekavira Dasa and Vrajalila Devi Dasi:
“In all situations Krsna is here to help His devotees, and our responsibility is to have faith in Him, and look for that seed of good in all circumstances, including even disease, old age and death. This isn’t just some ideal pious hope. It is the truth and my experience.” – His Grace Karnamrita Prabhu from his book Give to Live.
Karnamrita Prabhu was an embodiment of always looking for the seed of good in all circumstances, most especially in the devotees.
He was gentle, authentic, lighthearted, and caring with everyone.
We still remember his enthusiasm when he and his wife Arcana were married and participated in the fire yajna along with six other couples, including Ekavira Prabhu and me, almost thirty years ago.
When we became official members of the Grihastha Vision team, he welcomed and encouraged us by sharing his spiritual realizations.
We are most grateful for his encouragement, support, wisdom, exemplary devotion to his worshipable Deities and Srila Prabhupada, and his dedicated service to grihasthas.
Karnamrita, a spiritual ambassador and our mentor, will be missed.
Jagannatha Dasa and Cintamani Devi Dasi:
Karnamrita dasa was a very devoted, steadfast and empowered servant of Srila Prabhupada and a true lover of humanity. He dedicated his life to giving, giving, giving, as reflected in the title of one of his books, “Give to Live.” He brought many gifts to those whose lives he touched through his physical presence, his writing and his videos. Karnam made it his life’s mission to share his life experiences--with authenticity and raw detail--with the goal of helping others to avoid some of his challenges and to give insight and tools for progress on their spiritual paths.
"I have found that uncovering, praying to retire, and at least lessening our anarthas or our unfavorable mentalities and habitual patterns can help us to give our full attention and heart to the processes of bhakti. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, but only potential power, until we put that knowledge to practical use—in this case to think and act differently, gradually rising to the spiritual platform.” (Karnamrita Dasa Facebook post, 5/20/20).
He talked about his difficult childhood, his relationship with his parents, his psychological conditioning and his challenges and successes on the path of bhakti with great candor, potent spiritual realization and eternal hope. He challenged us all to not run from our anarthas but to bravely meet them head-on: "I have seen that many devotees need help in understanding such anarthas, since they create blind spots that can hold us back from making significant spiritual advancement. This is not about blaming others for our shortcomings or suffering, but about forgiving others (and ourselves), taking responsibility for our lives, and cutting the cords that bind us to persons, places, or things.” (Facebook post, 5/20/20).
Karnam often mentioned the importance of walking one’s talk. And he was surely tested--and shone ever so brightly--when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in November 2015. With great commitment and vigor, he was determined to chronicle and share the steps of his healing journey with the marked realization that what he was really "healing" was his unhealthy attachment to anything other than our dear Lord Krsna and His service. In a Facebook post on 5/16/20, Karnam shared: "I see [my current health situation] as one of the greatest blessings of my life, and the culmination of so many prayers for spiritual progress. Definitely Amazing, Inconceivably Wonderful, Grace (to try to describe my good fortune in my current situation!)"
And so he took us on the next step of his journey – now deeper into the wilderness of tests of faith and surrender – with his characteristic honesty, humor and dedication to Guru and Krsna. He was determined to shine the light into all the crevices of his path and to simultaneously show us the light of Srila Prabhupada’s promise: that our future is bright. And as always he was brave, always brave. And his bravery made us all a little braver.
Until the very end of his sojourn in this lifetime, he was shining: the shining light of his Love for Krsna and His parts and parcels and the shining light of his heart’s desire to give and give and give. Give to live. The love of his life, his beloved Arcana Siddhi, shared that even when his cancer was so advanced that his speaking was impaired, he wanted to make a video. So he could keep giving in service to all of us. So he could help. A rare, eternal type of help. The help that points one to eternal life in service to our beloved Lord Krsna. Give to live... Give to live... Give to live...
You set a high bar, dear Karnam. May your example continue to powerfully inspire us to live in kind.
The following is a description of a dream Karnamrita dasa had during his last days that he shared with his family and friends.
Last Night The Grim Reaper Came For Me
by Karnamrita Das
[ arcana siddhi ]
[ grihasta-vision-team ]
[ karnamrita ]
[ krsnanandini devi dasi ]
I saw the grim reaper in my dream, feeling no fear, I was curious to see him.
Coming near, he pointed his bony, pale hand toward me.
His other palm raised in blessing pose where it was written, the number 65—my age!
Then with both hands, he pointed to the sky, and shrugged.
His sickle and dark robes then transformed.
He showed his true self, as a blissful, radiant sage.
Smiling enchantingly, he said, "People dress me with their fear, thinking I have come to destroy them and take everything away.
You can see me as I am, because you have no fear, and you live the life of Godly devotion, the life of the soul."
"Death only pertains to the body, having nothing to do with the soul. I only come to help souls have another opportunity in physical form.
Life is a great blessing to realize the soul and God, but souls cover themselves and hide behind matter’s disguise.
People fear me because of their false attachments to temporary things that are actually the cause of all their suffering, such a great irony.
They fail to know the purpose of life and death, and that physical life is short for a very good reason.
Not knowing this people complain about superficial things instead of searching for answers why life is temporary, what life is for, and why there is birth, death, disease, old age, joy and sorrow, and a feeling of incompleteness.
"Souls in physical dress cling to false things that have nothing to do with themselves as a soul, thinking they are a body, that material things belong to them, that bodily relationships and designations define them, that kinsmen only come from blood ties—
but actually every being is our kinsman as we are all children of the same God, our Source.
"To study this is life’s curriculum, to realize it, is true knowledge. One can’t wait till the time of death to contemplate this but must study it in life, endeavoring to live the life of the soul.
"The great prophets throughout time come to teach this— following their example you must share this wisdom about the proper use of this temporary physical life; real life is eternal in the great joyful celebration of God; we find meaning and purpose in the spirit; and everything we search for is within already.
“You should remember that you may die today—or tomorrow, or before you turn 66, or in twenty years.
It matters not, if you live the life of the soul. For one truly devoted to God, life and death are the same—to the extent you live the “soul purpose” of life and remember God.
"This truth has to be chosen moment by moment until you are completely purified of matter’s influence.
You must teach by who you are, and your highest ideals.
Let your soul’s light illuminate and guide you at every step and help receptive souls awaken to their divine potential or that which they search for without knowing. Thus you have to demonstrate what they are searching for by radiating the joy, peace and wisdom of the soul, and speak from your soul heart to theirs—that is your life work now and forever.”
Then I woke up, praying to Krishna to completely wake up!