One of the happiest times, but also the saddest times is being with individuals as they come to the end of this lifetime. Ok so I worked on the hospital wards for many years and so this should not be a big surprise.
But this has become more special when we take into account that on occasions I have been at the side of the bed reading the Gita or chanting the holy names of Krishna.
At times I have been called on to or been able to bring in Krishna Prasadam to individuals who are in hospital or accessing hospital services.
Indeed on a recent visit by Mahavishnu Swami he took time out to travel to see a sick devotee taking a garland and prasadam for the individual who was so taken a back and moved by much kindness.
The other day I was saddened to hear of a devotee who after being admitted to hospital some four times has never had a devotee bring any Prasadam and that this had made them somewhat sad; this was further confirmed by other devotees who themselves found the same thing; the question is if we as devotees have a responsibility to care for and provide such facility.
Ok for myself this is impractical when discussing this with several devotees I had to laugh, if the devotees from the nearest canter cannot provide for a visiting Sannyasi then there is little to no chance of them coming to my aid; and so unfortunately I will have to accept some food made by non-devotees in the same kitchen and with the same implements as used in cooking meat. For me this fills me with some anxiety, but the alternative would be to starve which will be distressing for all concerned.
What surprised me was the fact that there appears to be no system in place to see to the needs of devotees who are in hospital and is reliant on friends to come to the aid; hum I personally am a little saddened by this for my experience working on the wards is that this is the most vital time and extra care should be taken.
The sceptic in me is that there is little or no money in it and for this reason no one is willing to take up the challenge of providing for devotees in hospital, practically there is little demand over all and that it is not just a case of dropping off prasadam but that you have to spend time listening, advising and directing a quick just popping in is impractical and it is more realistic that a much longer visit is needed.
For busy devotees the pressure of work, temple life, service and there own Sadhana fill up most of the hours in the day, indeed when the preaching centre said they could not provide any Prasadam for a visiting Sannyasi this was the reasons given, even more amusing was that they run a restaurant an irony that was somehow a little lost on me; may be he should have offered to pay a large some of money I’m sure provisions would soon be made (yes a little sceptical of me I’m sure)
But then I read and have newsletters from vishnava C.A.R.E the provision and devotional service given for those who are entering into there last stages of life and in hospital, the stories and realizations are amazing, I would encourage everyone to read it and take an active part in this vital and much needed work (vaisnavas care inc)
This has been reflected in my own personal experience that it helps progress and increase my own personal realizations whilst giving the most advanced humanitarian aid ever known by literally saving the soul from the hardship of repeated birth and death.
After all why do we give out Prasadam?
To give the individuals the taste of Krishna, to give association, to save the soul that is trapped in the material world and help it return to the spiritual; and were best to do this? In hospital by the bedside.
Each and every centre should look at which hospitals are close by and let the hospital chaplaincy service know that if any devotees are in that there is a Prasadam provision and that devotees will be available to administer to the spiritual needs of those who request it.
Ok so it’s going to divert some devotee time; but ask your self is it worth it?
Or even more personal if I was in hospital would I wish to be visited by a devotee and eat Krishna Prasadam?
If you answer No I don’t think so then may be as devotees we are lost; but if like me the answer is Yes then the question is what are we as individual’s willing to do about it.
And to those who are in charge of temple’s and centers the question is what provision are you willing to make, and accept that this will be of no charge just loving devotional service to save the soul; this after all is our only business.