for ISKCON News on Aug. 19, 2010
In a profoundly sad development, the death of a devotee in ISKCON's New Mayapur community in France has been deemed a suicide. According to temple authorities, in the early morning hours of July 23 Citra devi Dasi, a devotee for more then twenty years, committed suicide by setting her body on fire. The following is a letter from Hrdaya Caitanya Das, the GBC secretary for France:
"We are profoundly saddened that in New Mayapur on Friday 23 July in the early morning hours (around 1:00 am) Citra mataji committed suicide by
setting her body on fire.
Citra mataji joined ISKCON in Spain more than twenty years ago. For many years she has been serving Their Lordships at New Mayapur with great dedication and in a very devotional mood. Her life was very simple and centered around Krishna. She lived in a room in the castle and had no other aspirations than to serve the Lord with whatever means she had.
Two years ago she became physically more limited in her service because she underwent a hip operation, and to make matters more difficult, she became afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, a crippling disease characterized by muscle spasms and rigidity, tremors, slow movements and loss of control over many parts of the body. She thus had to give up her cherished service of dressing Sri Sri Krishna Balarama; gradually she had to phase out of all her pujari services, but she nevertheless continued making garlands and was even taking care of Tulasi devi as much as she possibly could.
Her suicide attracted much attention from the legal authorities. The senior devotees in New Mayapur are dealing with this in as mature a way as possible. Of course it is understood that for devotees, suicide is not an option.
The general consensus among the devotees is that Citra’s motivation for this dreadful decision was that she felt herself becoming a burden to others. It seems that because of her physical limitations, suicide by fire was the most accessible means. This terrible incident should also be taken as a lesson that ISKCON Europe’s devotees must start to seriously consider what we need to do in order to provide proper facilities for our devotees who have served for a lifetime, but who can no longer do so. Aged and sickly devotees should not become so isolated that they become overwhelmed by the idea of themselves being a burden.
Although suicide is generally considered a seriously sinful act, I agree with Praghosha prabhu who said that “Because Citra mataji was a devotee
and performed so much service, whatever the standard 'punishments' are for living entities committing suicide will not be so stringently applied in her case."
Let us remember with great appreciation the decades of dedicated service performed by Citra mataji, and let us pray that the Lords she worshiped so lovingly will intervene in such a manner that she will quickly be able to have more and more opportunities to find shelter in Their devotional service."