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There Is Another Choice
I would like to write in response to the recent suicide in Potomac. I am not writing as a sympathetic bystander devotee, as any type of authority, or as anybody in any position. I would like to write that there was a time in my devotional life where suicide was, or appeared to be, the only loving choice I could make.
For other devotees that may consider terminating their material bodies now or in the future, it does not have to happen. There are devotees out here that care, that have been there, that can and will listen. Today I am still embodied (obviously) and have a life that is full of joy and happiness. My life appears to some devotees as a fallen condition, entangled in maya and doomed for hell. But it is my life not theirs to even consider. This joy and happiness is derived from opportunities that would have been missed, opportunities to purify my life and perform devotional service according to my nature and level of advancement. Today I would never trade one moment of what I have now for what I had then.
Why did I consider suicide as a loving choice? My plan was not whimsical by any means. It took years of preparation, an act of love to save my spiritual master and Prabhupada from any shame or humiliation. In this body I have certain material conditions that could not be overcome by simply chanting Hare Krsna. These conditions may never be overcome in this lifetime.
As devotees we tend to lead lives of denial. I am not speaking about austerity denial. I am speaking about denial of one’s real and actual position, self-honesty. As a temple devotee, one had to pretend that material desires did not exist. The life you saw and the life I felt inside could never be reconciled.
For Chakra readers I will give an example: Last year a devotee wrote to Chakra about having a drug problem. I and many others responded to him. I thought and still do strongly believe that 12-step recovery is the perfect supplement to devotional service and chanting Hare Krsna. Some devotees, however, do not understand. A swami wrote to this addicted devotee saying that he did not need any 12-step program, he did not need any type of karmi treatment, that all he needed was to chant Hare Krsna.
In a book titled The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (I do not remember the authors’ names, both Christian clergymen), one of the co-authors was in 12-step recovery. One of the many symptoms of spiritual abuse is to tell people they do not need medical/psychological help, that they should not go to any 12-step programs because it’s not "our" religion.
Authorities, unqualified men, as the book describes, are placed in positions of leaders. Everybody deep down inside wants to do the right thing. The leaders want to be successful. They really do want to serve. But what happens? This is the mystery.
In my case, the divide between who I was by nature and who I was suppose to appear to be became greater and greater. Living outside my nature, surrendering my will, pretending to live up to the social dysfunction— it was the loneliest life I could ever have. The heart became torn and broken until it could not feel anymore. Looking into the mirror, I could not recognize myself any longer. I am chanting Hare Krsna. Is this advancement?
I felt there was nobody to turn to, nobody that would understand, that I would be judged and criticized. Because who I am inside is not acceptable, what my desires are would be considered sentimental, that I as a person did not matter, only what I could produce. I felt that nobody would even miss me, my absence would go unnoticed. The saddest part was that my absence would have gone unnoticed. I tested out my theory by disappearing one week to a family member’s home. Not a single temple devotee wondered where I had gone, nor did the temple president care about anything except how my service was going to be caught up on.
Once I made my plan firm, like this young man in Potomac, I chose a special holiday of the Lord, Ratha Yatra. My date was scheduled for Ramnaumi a few years back. The pain is gone, there is relief! I was free from the hurt and suffering, completely prepared to take a form of a ghost. At least in a ghostly body I would cause no further damage to my spiritual master or Prabhupada. My physical form gone, long forgotten. Whatever my material desires were would be safely kept away from the Vaisnava community. My secrets would not be exposed as a ghost to those behind in physical forms. I was not afraid of the consequences for they seemed so insignificant to the pain of living.
One month prior to my scheduled date of termination, I did drop a clue to a devotee friend what I was planning without offering any details. I picked the wrong devotee, not realizing that she had degrees in psychology. I was dropping clues to devotees for a few years and never did they pick up on it. How she did was simply Krsna’s arrangement. All glories to karmi education and psychology!
Piece by piece, I was able to come to terms with my secrets and heal from whatever damaged was caused to me or that I cause to others.
Hours and hours of discussion with my spiritual master. The single most important reason I chose to live this lifetime was a statement made my spiritual master. He said, " I can never be embarrassed by you because of this ****, the only embarrassment is your arrogance not *****." The humor was that my secrets are nothing compared to my arrogance. That, I could live with.
"I and Mine": this is our illusion, but I had to take back "mine." I had to claim "my life." I know our philosophy, I understand Krsna is God, I know that the Holy Name and devotional service are the perfected means. Now, I have to live my life in this way. The responsibility is mine, not other people’s.
I am criticized and judged daily by devotees who have not a single clue to who I am as a person. I have no time to associate with them. There are more than enough devotees available that believe in me, that encourage me, that love me unconditionally. My nature and inclination fit perfectly in our Krishna Consciousness. I have no problem with that. Today my only shame is that I fail to chant attentively.
Since that time, I was given more opportunities. the Lord handed to me on a silver platter an occupation that drives my every move, an occupation that is clean and Vaisnava-friendly and perfect for my nature. The Lord, out of His causeless mercy, has given to me a family today that I can serve. I feel cared about. I can enter my occupation and share about Krsna, and I can share the Holy Name with my stepchildren. I can dance, chant, and take prasadam.
On the last anniversary of my healing date (every Ramnaumi) I took a medallion in a 12-step program. My sponsor in a room of almost 100 other recovering people (non-devotees) began the group in supporting me by cheering me on: "Krsna Krsna Krsna" until the entire room was filled with "Krsna Krsna Krsna." If only the swami that told that devotee from the Chakra article not to bother with karmi programs could have been there to see the sight!
By the grace of a Loving God whom I chose to call Krsna, my life remains today.
For devotees out there that are considering suicide now or in the future, please reach out. You may not be able to trust those around you, but there are devotees that can be trusted. Where do you turn? Who will understand? Make up some anonymous Hotmail or Yahoo account and just start writing. I am sure that whatever emails arrive at Chakra will be forwarded to appropriate devotees that have this experience. There are many devotees that are trained and professional in this arena. Whatever the secret or pain, another devotee has already been there and is still chanting Hare Krsna today.
We each can take a small part in saving the lives of our Vaisnavas. The tragic loss could have been prevented.
[See "Statement on Suicide at ISKCON Temple, Potomac" Chakra July 2, 2002]
© CHAKRA 14 July 2002
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