Thursday, January 31, 2008

Intoxication = Constant Tragedy

Today morning I got an email forward by a devotee about a tragic event that took place in a province in Canada today.

Read the article below or by clicking here.

The news event brings into light the ill effects of drinking alcohol and what it can do to your mental stability. Its high time people, media and governments around the world realize what drinking can do to you.

More about this later.

Infant sisters freeze to death during father's midnight stupor
Bodies of girls clad in T-shirts and diapers found on Saskatchewan reserve after dad got lost
January 31, 2008
It was just after midnight on the Yellow Quill reserve when Christopher Pauchay hoisted his two small children in his arms and staggered into a howling white winter storm.

The winds sent temperatures careening toward -50 degrees that night, but Mr. Pauchay didn't even put on a jacket. His 15-month-old daughter, Santana, and his three-year-old daughter, Kaydence, wore only diapers and T-shirts, so he swaddled one in his own winter coat and wrapped the other in a thin blanket. They were heading for his sister's house, 400 metres away across barren dunes of drifting snow.

But Mr. Pauchay, 24, had been drinking heavily Monday night, his elder sister, Bernita Pauchay, said yesterday. His wife Tracey, 21, had stormed out after a fight earlier that evening, and Mr. Pauchay was left home alone with the children. The day before, he had taken a ride to the local liquor store, where he bought a case of beer and two bottles of whisky.

"My brother was so intoxicated," Bernita, 35, said. "I don't know how big the bottles were, but when he drank whisky he would get real loaded."

Late that night, something happened with Santana that frightened Mr. Pauchay. She may have been sick, Bernita said, or something else may have gone wrong.

"I'm not sure what happened with the baby but he said something was wrong with her," she said.
It prompted Mr. Pauchay to try to run headlong through the snow to his sister's house, possibly because he wanted to get a ride down to the nearby hospital in Kelvington, and he had no phone in his house to call for help.

What's clear is that he never reached his destination.
The tracks he left in the snow cut a twisting, haphazard path that fits with the alcoholic haze he later described from his hospital bed, his sister said.

"You could tell he couldn't see where he was running because he was running right through high snowbanks. You could see the times that he fell," she said.

"He remembers carrying both of the babies, but he was so intoxicated he doesn't really remember anything else," she said.

"He remembers holding both of the babies in his arms and falling all over in the snow. At some point he must have fallen so hard that he dropped one of them and he kept running with the other one, and he was just so scared that he just kept going. He didn't realize that he had dropped one of the girls."

Eventually, he dropped the other girl as well. Four hours later, just before 5 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Pauchay crawled through the snow to a neighbour's front step. His hand frozen in a claw, he banged on the door, waking someone inside. He was incoherent, the neighbours told his family, suffering from hypothermia and frostbite and still under the influence of alcohol. They called an ambulance, whose crew in turn called the RCMP, and Mr. Pauchay was brought to Kelvington's hospital by 5:30 a.m.

It wasn't until eight hours later that anyone noticed his daughters were missing. At 1:30 p.m., Mr. Pauchay asked hospital staff if his children were all right, which finally set alarm bells ringing.

Later that afternoon, a tuft of dark, curly hair was spotted in a snowbank on the reserve. The RCMP recovered the body of little Santana that day. With the cold and blowing snow it took another 24 hours to recover Kaydence's body, which lay about 50 metres from the spot where her sister was found.

The entire reserve was in mourning yesterday, Yellow Quill Chief Robert Whitehead said.
The officers of the RCMP search-and-rescue team have now been replaced by investigators from the force's major-crimes units. No charges have been laid, and an official cause of death has still to be determined at autopsy, but at this point it appears the two girls froze to death.

"They were cute, pretty girls. They were always happy all the time, when they weren't fighting with each other," their aunt Bernita said. "Everybody is going to miss their curly-headed little smiles."

They belonged to a large family on the reserve, which is located about three hours east of Saskatoon. Christopher is one of nine siblings in the Pauchay family, and his daughters were two of 26 grandchildren.

He and Tracey, his childhood sweetheart, had been together for about eight years, but their fighting had escalated recently, Bernita said.

"Alcohol is a problem," she said. "It's the only time they really fought was when they were drunk."
The couple moved back to the reserve last fall after spending three years in Regina, where Christopher worked at a tire shop. They were hoping for a quieter life, surrounded by the comfort of family.

"You could say [there were] personal problems between them. Tracey would get up and leave and go out and be gone for days, leaving Chris with the girls. That's why I say he was the primary caregiver," Bernita said. "Yesterday we were looking for [Tracey] all over the place and we couldn't find her. We figured she was hiding some place, but my mom found her at my brother Gary's place. She was drinking there the night before."

Tracey had no idea anything was amiss until it was far too late. She's devastated by the news, Bernita said.
"She's taking it real hard. We're all taking it real hard."
Tracey went to visit her husband in hospital yesterday, and spent much of the day being comforted by her mother and aunts.

Christopher will have to remain in hospital for at least a few days, and it's not known whether he'll lose any fingers or toes. His hands are heavily bandaged, and he suffered frostbite on his torso.

"Physically he's getting better but emotionally he's taking it very hard," Bernita said.
Choking back tears, she remembered the happiness the family shared this Christmas as everyone gathered at her house to open gifts. Santana and Kaydence ran around creating havoc, opening their presents when they weren't supposed to, and then opening other people's presents once theirs were done.

"It's sad," she said. "I just want to know what led up to him leaving the house with his kids not dressed properly. What led up to him running with them across the road, especially when it's so cold out? That's what I want to know, and I know he wasn't in his right mind, because he would never put his kids through that."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Missing the train..

Today is Monday, the first day of the week. It can be a week full of spiritual ecstasy or a week full of mundane material work.

Irrespective of how the outcome of the week is, its always nice to get a fresh start. So after a wonderful ecstatic weekend of kirtans, birthday bashes, mind blowing prasad, some unforgettable conversations, hanging out with the coolest devotee friends (or peeps as I call them) and ofcourse Radha Kscirachora Gopinath, I decided to get to work a bit earlier today just so that I can leave early to catch Mother Laxmimoni's program here in Toronto.

However, being the person I am, i went through my morning duties at a regular pace but when I went to the subway station and swiped in my card, I heard the train. Usually I run to catch the train and it always seems silly because by the time I am in the train, I am so tired and considering that the train comes ever 3 minutes, I am not really saving anything. So I just walked normally and when I got to the platform, the train JUST left.

I had no reaction to this as it happens always. But then, 2 minutes became 4 minutes.. 4 minutes became 8 minutes and so on. The crowd grew on the platform and was slowing becoming restless. I was doing my rounds and in a different world with my iPod. But in a while, I realised that I was waiting for 20 minutes and NO train! Then we heard the annoucement that due to some technical delays, it would take another 10 minutes. Eventually after waiting for a total of 35 minutes instead of the regular 3 minutes, the train arrived.

Sitting in the train, I felt like slapping myself for not taking the train that I just missed. Its not the train that I missed, but my laziness costed me a good 35 minutes.

Now as I write this blog, I can't help but realise that so many people out there are missing the train, the train of oppurtunity, the train that leads to us the final destination of understanding the Love towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

We are missing the train simply because of our laziness to understand that this is a once in a lifetime oppurtunity. Who knows? You might have to wait 3500 years to be able to catch that train again.

Srila Prabhupad and the various acharyas, our Guru Parampara is driving this train and is slowing down waiting for us to catch it. Our devotee friends are like those passengers who hold the doors of maya and help us enter the train but giving us their hand.

Let us try to grab that hand and never let go, else we will be forever left on the platform of this material world!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Glories of Andal Alwar, Sri Sampradaya

Today is Pongal, a famous harvest festival celebrated across South India and it falls four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi or Dhanurmasa. What makes Dhanurmas or Maargazhi (pronounced as Maar-galli) is that is the month dedicated to the worship or Goddess Andal.

Diety of Andal in the temple in my Mom's village in Andhra Pradesh, India

I was inspired to write about Andal and my relationship with her after reading a blog entry by Balaram Chandra on a similar topic. Andal is revered in the Sri Sampradaya (one of the 4 Vaishnava Sampradaya's which was led by Sri Ramanuja Acharya) as an incarnation of Bhumi Devi, the consort of Lord Narayana. Andal Devi took birth on this earth to exhibit loving exchanges with Lord Rangannath in the form of his pure devotee.

The story of Andal goes that she appeared as a baby girl under a tulsi plant, in the garden of the Vatapatrasayi temple in Srivilliputtur, southwest of Madurai. A great devotee of Krishna named Vishnuchittar (Periyazhwar/Peri Alwar) found her, named her Kodhai/Goda and raised her as his daughter.She sang 30 sweet songs during this month of Dhanurmaas or Maargazhi which contain the principles and ideals of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. Though born in Southern India, she assumes the guise of the Gopis and reflects their feeling of seperation from Krishna. She years for everlasting happiness and eternal service of the Lord.

Finally, at her request to marry Lord Ranganatha, and as suggested by Lord Ranganatha himself in the dream of Vishnuchittar, her father took her to the Sri Ranganatha temple in Sri Rangam where she climbed into the sanctum and married Lord Ranganath.

Since time and memorial, Sri Vaishnavites all around the world sing these songs knows as the Thirrupavai every day to glorify the Lord and it gets a special flavour during the month of Maargazhi. Its interesting to note that each day of the month gets its name from each of the songs known as Pasurams.

In her songs, Andal invites all her friends to join her by waking up early in the month before the Bramha Muhurta and singing the glories of the Lord and then preparing delicious Pongal (a preparation made with Rice and Dahl, ). Andal prays to be granted the service of the Lord for all eternity and symbolizes the soul's inner craving to serve the Lord.

Andal Devi's story is very personal to me as my middle name is Goda! My Grandparents are ardent devotees of Andal and I grew up to love her. She is so approachable and its like having the best girl friend whom you can talk to about anything. She is so merciful and is always smiling and holding her hands out to comfort you and forgive you.

Her message is so beautiful and powerful that Sri Parasara Bhattar said that "Just as the mother cow gives milk even in the presence of its dead and stuffed calf, so also the Lord will bless us even though we are absolutely devoid of the supreme devotion of Andal, merely because we are repeating her words."

All Glories to Sri Sri Andal Devi !!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jammin' it up...

Its been over 24 hours since the our last PSena Toronto Jammin at the Koffler Institute at the University of Toronto Campus.. and I can't help but reflect on how awesome it was.

I love the Jamming sessions just because they are a great place for us to talk, relax, unwind with some fantastic kirtans and then have a great conversation over prasad and hot tea. But this Jamming was so special.

It started off with Vinodhini giving us the presentation on "Power of Sound Vibration", which was very powerful. Her opening ice breaker of taking us to the middle of Spadina Crescent and make us not talk but listen was so introspective as it made me realize how much of noise is there in silence, that it was jarring. Wonderful day to realize the power of Sounds and mostly the sound of the Holy Name. Beautiful.

This is from the last Jamming. I didn't take pictures this time but the crowd was the same..well almost!

After the presentation, we had such a delicious feast of Pasta by Bobby and Salad by Madhava which was just a perfect way. As we were munching on the cookies experimented by Vraja and myself, and with Jettu, Vinodhini and Keshav fighting over the harmonium, Keshav won and he started playing a new tune he learned on the Harmonium recently. Just as we all joined in with our instruments and hands, it slowly picked up pace to become a rocking Kirtan.

Now here comes the cool part. There was a Hatha Yoga program happening in the hall in front of ours. They were a group of mostly middle aged adults and it so happened that our impromptu Kirtan happened right in between their break. So they were outside strolling around and we didn't realise but our Kirtan drew them into our hall and as the Maha mantra made the atmosphere blissful, around 45 people were outside clapping, tapping their feet and in some cases even singing with us!! As their break got over, we just picked up pace and people didn't want to go back to their session !!! We didn't waste any time in giving them Prasad, Sunday Feast Cards and told them what we were doing. People were so impressed and more than a dozen people asked us to keep doing this ! That was so cool :-) !

After doing Kirtan, we cleared up and went into this Medidation Room on Campus. After doing a round of some potent Japa, I went out for a stroll and bumped into those people again. They asked me more information, brought books and even promised to come out for our Sunday feast. And they came today !

Before we wound up, Ateet Prabhu called Shotgun at the Harmonium and sang Sri Guru Carana Padma. I felt it was befitting to finish with prayers to Srila Prabhupad. It is nothing other than his mercy that facilitated so many people to come and join us. It made me realise the power of the Holy Name and how much responsibility we have to keep spreading it.

I am still high on that kirtan.. and don't want to come down and even if I do end up coming down, I want to experience that high...always....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Srila Prabhupad Reminiscent...

Just as I was about to get back to work after my lunch break, I got this wonderful emails from a mailing group I subscribe too, thought I would share it:

Trip to the US

Trivikrama Maharaja came in the afternoon to report that he will be flying to Hong Kong to begin his China preaching right after Srila Prabhupada leaves Los Angeles. He also brought what he said was the very first newsclipping of Prabhupada in America, printed in the Butler Eagle in 1965 just a few days after Srila Prabhupada had first landed in America. It had a wonderful photo of him looking innocent and humble, a saintly, scholarly person holding his Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was accompanied by a brief description of his activities and intentions, describing him as an "ambassador of bhakti-yoga."

Prabhupada was surprised and happy to see it and fondly recalled how he was first sponsored to come here through a chance meeting. He was full of smiles as he recalled the events. "So I did not say anything seriously, but perhaps he took it very seriously, Gopala's father. So he might have written to Gopala that 'Swami Bhaktivedanta wants to go to America. If you sponsor, then he can go.' So whatever the correspondence was there between the father and son, I did not know. I simply asked him, 'Why don't you ask your son Gopala to sponsor so that I can go there? I want to preach there.' So after some months, three, four months, the No-Objection Certificate from the Indian embassy in New York, Gopala sent to me, yes, that he had already sponsored my arrival there for one month. So all of a sudden I got the paper, No-Objection Certificate by the Indian embassy. After so much inquiry, I learned that so much inquiry was done and so on, so on. Then I tried to take a passport and paper process. So I got the passport. Then I approached that Sumati Morarji. She once gave me five hundred rupees in exchange of my Bhagavata book, so I approached her, that 'Give me one ticket.' They have got their shipping company, Scindia Navigation. So she said, 'Svamiji, you are so old, you are taking this so responsibility. Do you think it is right?' 'No, it is all right.' At that time, I was seventy years old. So all the secretary, they thought that 'Svamiji is going to die there.' Anyway, they gave me the ticket, one return free ticket by their ship. Then arrangement was going on. So there is another process to get a P-form sanctioned by the state government. So it was applied for. No sanction was coming. Then I went to the State Bank of India, the officer Mr. Bhattacari. So he told me: 'Svamiji, you are sponsored by private man. So we cannot accept it. If you are invited by some institution, then we could consider, but you are invited by a private man for one month, and, after one month, if you are in difficulty, and there will be so much obstacles and so on.' 'Well, I have already prepared everything to go.' So I said that 'You, what you have done?' 'No, I have decided not to sanction your P-form.' 'No, no, don't do this. You better send to your superior. It should not be done like that.' So he took my request and he sent the file to Chief Officer of Foreign Exchange, something like that. Anyway, he is the supreme man in the State Bank of India. So I went to see him. So I asked his secretary that 'You have got such file? You kindly put to Mr. Rao, 'I want to see him.' So the secretary agreed, and he put the file and put my slip that I wanted to see him. I was waiting. So Mr. Rao came personally. He said, 'Svamiji, I have passed your case. Don't worry.' In this way."

"So it is a great history. There was two days I was attacked in heart on the ship. So hardship."

Not wanting to miss any drop of the nectar of Srila Prabhupada's recollections of the momentous events, Trivikrama Maharaja prompted him to go on. "Then you had a dream?"

"Hmm," Prabhupada said thoughtfully, but a little reluctant to reveal anything further. I hadn't heard this kind of detail so I also wanted him to continue. "What was that, Srila Prabhupada?"

Prabhupada smiled bashfully. "That is... The dream was I must come here."

"It was some instruction that you got?" I asked, eager to delve but trying not to demand.

"The dream was that Krsna in His many forms was, bowing the row-what is called?"

"Rowing the boat?" I offered.

"Yes. And when I arrived in Boston I wrote that poetry." He continued for a few minutes describing his first year in brief, how he kept extending his visa and how another heart attack forced him to return to India because he thought he was going to die. When he boarded the plane he said that Brahmananda and the others were all crying, thinking he would not return. But six months later he did come back. And shortly after that this Los Angeles center was started in earnest.

It was wonderful to sit and hear him recall his efforts to spread Krsna consciousness, and again it drove home the great personal sacrifice he made, ultimately just for our benefit.

- From the "A Transcendental Diary Vol 2" by HG Hari Sauri dasa