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This conspiracy theory book by ex-ISKCON member Nityananda dasa alleges that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned. CHAKRA explores the issue below via articles and letters.

Nityananda’s Diagnosis 1 – Cardiac Symptoms

David R. Hooper  B. Sc. (biochem.)

(Deva Gaura Hari Das)




In ‘No Medical Evidence for Poisoning of Srila Prabhupada,’ a general overview of the symptoms of arsenicosis was given, and their marked absence in the condition of Srila Prabhupada discussed. Also presented was evidence from medical and scientific publications detailing the clear presence of signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus type 2 with accompanying kidney disease in Prabhupada’s physical condition.


This document is the first in a series that will address more directly the claims published in the book ‘Someone Has Poisoned Me,’ (hereafter referred to as SHPM), by Nityananda Das. We will begin by examining each of the ‘symptoms’ given in the Health Biography Analysis (chapter 32, page 226) of SHPM.



Arsenic caused Srila Prabhupada’s heart to palpitate, quicken its beat, and become irregular in its beat, all noted in the health biography.


Cardiac Symptoms - Arsenical or Diabetic?


The two major types of arsenic poisoning are acute (appearance of symptoms within hours of a large oral dose) and chronic (gradual onset of symptoms over several weeks following repeated small doses or environmental exposure). It is important to note that the clinical signs of the two types of arsenic intoxication are quite different. We carried out extensive research into more than 50 medical publications, including most of the 24 medical references cited in SHPM. With few exceptions, the references to arsenic-induced cardiac irregularities, especially ventricular dysrhythmia, relate to acute rather than chronic poisoning. Goldfrank’s Toxocologic Emergencies gives the typical account of acute intoxication:


Acute toxicity typically begins with gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea … Cardiovascular instability often accompanies or quickly follows these symptoms …Patients with severe poisoning may also develop acute encephalopathy with delirium, seizures, coma, dysrhythmias, fever …acute renal failure, and death.1


The symptoms of chronic poisoning are also commonly agreed on as being; a progressive symmetrical polyneuropathy (gradual loss of feeling, pins and needles in both legs beginning with the feet), dermatological features (scaly rash, dappling of trunk, thickening of palms and soles), Mees lines (white lines of arsenic deposited in fingernails), nausea and general weakness.2,3,12,13

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Therefore, the overwhelming experience of experts is that while cardiac effects are often seen in cases of acute intoxication, in chronic poisoning cardiovascular symptoms are far less noticeable, and are extremely unlikely to be seen in the absence of the other more prominent neurological and dermatological symptoms of arsenic intoxication.


Nityananda Das’s hypothesis is that Srila Prabhupada was given small doses of arsenic over a long period, thus producing symptoms of chronic, rather than acute poisoning. It is therefore inconsistent with the literature to attribute Prabhupada’s cardiac disturbances to chronic arsenicism, in the absence of the other symptoms such as symmetrical polyneuropathy, dermatological changes and nail bed irregularities.


While the literature doesn’t support a diagnosis of chronic arsenical cardiac complications without dermatological or neurological signs, there is abundant literature linking diabetes with cardiovascular disease, especially heart attack and stroke.


Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death in adults with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease, and the incidence of coronary artery disease is related to the duration of diabetes.4


As discussed in the previous paper, it was common knowledge within ISKCON since 1969 that Prabhupada was a diabetic. He confirmed this fact himself and Dr McIrving who treated Prabhupada at Watford Peace Memorial Hospital in 1977 also gave the same diagnosis.


The following points about diabetic coronary heart disease are also interesting to note.


Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of diabetes-related death; adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from CHD as their non-diabetic counterparts.6


Coronary artery disease and stroke are quite common. Silent myocardial infarction occurs with increased frequency in diabetes and should be suspected whenever symptoms of left ventricular failure appear suddenly. Diabetes may also be associated with the clinical picture of cardiomyopathy, in which heart failure occurs in the face of apparently normal coronary arteries and in the absence of other identifiable causes of heart disease.4


That Srila Prabhupada lived an extremely pure life, never smoked or took alcohol, nor had any other identifiable causes of heart disease is yet another indication that his diabetes was the cause of his repeated heart attacks and stroke.


Prabhupada confirmed the fact that such diabetic heart attacks are generally severe and life threatening, citing his own experience.


He had said that when the heart attack had come, it had been meant for his death; therefore he had called out loudly, “Hare Krishna!” thinking that the moment of death had come.7

May, 1967.


To say that Srila Prabhupada’s heart problems of 1977 were due to arsenic neglects to acknowledge the fact that he had displayed these clinical signs for at least ten years prior to this (refer to cardiac health history below). In fact, details of his symptoms recorded independently in 1967 and 1977 display a remarkable similarity in describing his condition.  


During the last week of May, Srila Prabhupada began to feel exhausted. He spoke of heart palpitations. Hoping that the symptoms would clear up in a day or two, Kirtanananda requested Prabhupada to rest and see no visitors. But Prabhupada's condition became worse.7

May, 1967.



Working on Srimad-Bhagavatam, he was completely transcendental to his physical condition, despite the accompanying heart palpitations and despite his faint voice and general weakness. Even to sit was difficult, and yet once he began working, nothing could stop him. 7

July, 1977.


Therefore, to say that chronic arsenicosis was the cause of Srila Prabhupada’s heart palpitations and other cardiovascular problems of 1977 is to disregard both the available medical literature and the clear historical facts of identical symptoms recorded since 1965. Rather, the cardiac traumas experienced by Srila Prabhupada from 1965 through to 1977 are clearly attributable to diabetes mellitus, which had gone untreated for many years, if not decades.


History of Cardiac Symptoms 1967- 1977


In 1965, before Prabhupada had set foot on American soil, he suffered two heart attacks on the ship taking him to the United States. Again in 1967 he suffered a major heart attack and stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body and took two years for him to recover from. Throughout the years to come, Prabhupada experienced heart problems on and off with palpitations and weakness of the heart reported throughout the early seventies up to the year of his passing in 1977. The following is a partial record of Srila Prabhupada’s history of cardiac illness from 1965 through to 1977. 


Srila Prabhupada wrote of some sea-sickness, and on the thirteenth day of the voyage, during the passage through the Arabian Sea, he suffered a massive heart attack. 9

August 1965 


The devotees called a second doctor, who came and diagnosed Srila Prabhupada as having had a mild heart attack. He said that Prabhupada should at once go to the hospital. 7

May, 1967 


Prabhupada: In ’68 I was alone. And I had to struggle very, very hard, alone. Therefore I got heart attack in 1967. Then that heart attack and regress continued for two years. Whatever is done, it is done from 1969. Before that, I was simply alone struggling to start this mission. 11

April 10, 1977.

(ref. May, 1967-69) 


Srila Prabhupada's brief description of the personal ordeal he had passed through left me listless. Prabhupada had been nearly unconscious for many days. I remembered in India seeing him in a similar condition due to over-exhaustion, but Prabhupada had passed through that trial quickly, recovering in one night. And I recalled how in Los Angeles he had suffered from heart palpitations and severe coughing which plagued him for nearly a month. 10

September, 1974 


The nights had been passing with difficulty for Prabhupada.  He had been unable to translate because the strain of talking caused heart palpitations.  His sleeping had also been interrupted by the palpitations. 8

May 25, 1977 


Last night he had difficulty on account of heart pain. 8

June 20, 1977 


Working on Srimad-Bhagavatam, he was completely transcendental to his physical condition, despite the accompanying heart palpitations and despite his faint voice and general weakness. Even to sit was difficult, and yet once he began working, nothing could stop him. 7

July, 1977.



Prabhupada made an opening and closing motion with his hand, indicating he was having heart palpitations.  They were worse, he explained, than before in Vrindavana. 8

September 10, 1977




Attributing the 1977 cardiac symptoms to arsenicosis brings up some other interesting questions:


Is Nityananda Das suggesting that the heart attacks that happened prior to Prabhupada’s coming to America were also due to arsenic poisoning?


What about the palpitations and attacks in 1967, why would neophyte disciples want to poison their newfound spiritual master they were so dependent on?


If Nityananda Das accepts that these clinical manifestations were simply due to Srila Prabhupada’s own systemic illness, then why attribute the same symptoms to arsenicosis when they reappear ten years later?


Rather than advance into the realms of medical conjecture, the obvious diagnosis is to simply attribute the heart attacks and palpitations to long untreated diabetes. The doctor who personally treated Prabhupada confirmed this prognosis, and it is supported by all available literature.  There is clearly no need to look to some extraneous cause for the cardiac symptoms of 1977, when Prabhupada’s health had further deteriorated and he was more prone to be affected by these cardiac weaknesses.


The argument may be raised that the cardiac symptoms are just one of many clinical features that point to arsenic poisoning. However, we shouldn’t let this smokescreen get in the way of an unbiased appraisal of each particular symptom with reference to the medical history of the patient and current literature. As we progress to question each symptoms validity, it may well be found that there are actually very few, if any, specific signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning in the health history of Srila Prabhupada.  




The diagnosis of arsenical cardiomyopathy, in the absence of all the major indicative signs of chronic exposure such as polyneuropathy, skin thickening and pigmentation, nail lines etc. cannot at all be supported by the medical literature. The fact that Nityananda Das is neither a medical doctor responsible to a professional board or research scientist answerable to a university faculty allows him to make such claims with relative immunity, at least from a professional standpoint. However, the impartial reader would be well advised to regard such claims with caution in light of Nityananda Das’s lack of academic credentials and questionable ability to impartially represent the available medical literature.




1.       Goldfrank’s Toxologic Emergencies. 6th Ed. Appleton and Lange.

2.       Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens. Vol 1. Sittig, Marshall. 1991.

3.       Phrenic Neuropathy in Arsenic Poisoning. Bansal SK, Haldar N, Dhand UK, Chopra JS. Chest 1991;100(3):878-880.

4.       Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th Ed. McGraw-Hill.

5.       Abhirama Das- Statement on Prabhupada’s Health History 1998

6.       Type 2 diabetes: Causes, complications, and new screening recommendations. Butler R. et al. Geriatrics 1998;53:47-54

7.       Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita. Satsvarupa Das Goswami.

8.       TKG’s Diary- Prabhupada’s Final Days. Tamal Krishna Goswami.

9.       The Jaladuta Diary. BBT. 1998

10.   Servant of the Servant. Tamal Krishna Goswami.

11.   Conversations with Srila Prabhupada. BBT.

12.   Further Scientific Evidence of the Non-Poisonous Death of Napolean Bonaparte. Corso PF, Hindmarsh T.  Sc Prog 1996;79(2):89-96

13.   Medical Toxicology – Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Poisoning. Ellenhorn, M. 1988

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