October 4 2008

Health is always a topic. If you have a material body, jara and vyadhi are part and parcel.

 I just got this letter from my godbrother Dhruva Maharaja prabhu (who by the way runs an excellent website called www.sadhusanga.com where you can download heaps of wonderful audio stuff, e-books etc.)

 “A few years ago doctors prescribed some high blood pressure medicine, which I’ve been taking regularly. Although my numbers are now okay, there’s a substance in blood called triglycerides – and mine are high.

“The allopathic remedy for this is nasty – I’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit me. I’ve also tried garlic pills, but they didn’t do much. Now the doctor is saying either take the allopathic or the other remedy – fish oil….yuukkk!

“You’re the walking, talking, emailing database for Srila Prabhupada pastimes…..so I’m wondering if there’s some instance you can refer to that will answer the question what to do in this case?”


 I can’t recall much that Srila Prabhupada said about treating high blood pressure. He did have continual problems with it while I was his servant:

[TD 1] December 21st, 1975- Bombay

There was no morning walk today. Missing Prabhupada on the beach, Dr. Patel arrived at his apartment with his son. He took a cardiograph reading and gave Prabhupada some pills. His diagnosis is high blood pressure.
Prabhupada rested. He didn’t take breakfast, and then ate only a morsel at lunch, complaining of dizziness from the medicine. He remarked that modern drugs are medicines for the demons. Prabhupada rarely goes to a doctor, although if by some arrangement one comes to him, he doesn’t refuse their help. Disease has to be treated, of course, but as far as he is concerned, chanting Hare Krsna is the best cure.
In the evening he felt better and ate some guava, three parathas, and a sabji Harikesa cooked for him.
As part of his cure Prabhupada told us that for at least one week he wants to be free of appointments and visitors. Harikesa is doubtful that we will be able to enforce this rule. Prabhupada is too enthusiastic to stop preaching and too kind to turn away unexpected visitors.”

[TD 4] September 11th, 1976 – Sri Vrndavana-dhama

Prabhupada’s health is not very good. He has been suffering from high blood pressure for several days, and today he has toothache. Indeed, he seems to be suffering a general decline in health and strength. At this time last year he was striding strongly down the road every morning for at least one hour and seemed quite full of vigor. Now he rarely takes such walks.

September 12th, 1976

Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam class was shorter than usual. He is still suffering from high blood pressure and speaking gives him a headache.

September 13th, 1976

Hansaduta Maharaja has asked Srila Prabhupada if he can record him singing some bhajanas. He wants to make a record for sankirtana distribution. Prabhupada has agreed, despite the fact that he has great difficulty speaking very much at the moment due to his high blood pressure. So at about 6:00 a.m. this morning, Hansaduta set up some simple recording equipment in Srila Prabhupada’s bedroom. His Divine Grace played the harmonium and recorded Hari Hari Biphale. Harikesa Swami accompanied him on mrdanga and I played the karatalas.

* * *

Prabhupada’s classes are becoming noticeably shorter. His high blood pressure makes it a strain for him to speak for an extended period. Still, long or short, his speaking is imbued with the same depth and power, and his realizations illuminate the text and the hearts of the devotees.

September 17th, 1976

Srila Prabhupada told Hansaduta Swami that this morning’s recording session would be the last. Prabhupada wants to oblige Hansaduta, but he said the singing is too much strain because of his high blood pressure.

September 18th, 1976

Srila Prabhupada is not feeling well again and could hardly speak this morning due to his high blood pressure, which is affecting his head and giving him massive headaches. He gave only a short class and afterwards, in his room, he said he will stop public lecturing for a while as it is a great strain.

September 19th, 1976

Srila Prabhupada didn’t give a class this morning. He rested until 9 a.m. and then followed his usual routine for the rest of the day.
His high blood pressure has become such a problem that after giving his usual evening darsana in the temple, he sat in his room and had me massage his head and temples for twenty minutes with Brahmi oil. After this, I soaked a new gamcha in cold water, folded it into a strip about six inches wide, and Prabhupada then sat with it draped over his head for about an hour. The treatment seemed to give him some relief.

September 30th, 1976

I mentioned to Tamopaha that Prabhupada was having high blood pressure problems and he suggested that Prabhupada take the pulp from the cactus-like aloe vera plant, a common treatment for heart complaints in Hawaii. He said it helps clear the arteries and is also excellent when applied externally, for curing burns and skin ailments. I discussed it with Srila Prabhupada and he agreed to try it. Accordingly, I have located some plants growing in a nearby asrama and it is being added to his diet.

October 1st, 1976

At 7:00 p.m. as arati begins, Prabhupada returns to his quarters. Most evenings he does not talk much with anyone because his high blood pressure is persistent and he gets a big headache almost as soon as he talks. Apart from his managers, only Bhagatji comes in the late evening. He chats with Prabhupada from about 8:30 p.m. until Prabhupada takes his milk and retires.


 You can see from this that his blood pressure problem was persistent. He did try the aloe vera remedy but to not much effect:

[TD 5] October 9th 1976 – Aligarh (at the house of Mr. Saigal)

Aligarh reception

Aligarh reception, Mr. Saigal at far right — (see photo gallery for more Aligarh photos)

Surendra Saigal came in to Prabhupada’s room to find out what he wanted for breakfast. Prabhupada mentioned apples and milk. Since Mr. Saigal had made some suggestions to Srila Prabhupada for helping with his health, I asked him if he could get some ghrita-kumari, aloe vera. Arjuna and Tamopaha prabhus suggested it last week as a good remedy for high blood pressure and for cleaning the arteries. Mr. Saigal happily informed us that he had it growing in his garden. His wife takes it regularly, stuffed in chapatis or parathas, and finds it quite efficacious for relieving pains in her knees. Mr. Saigal though, suggested that garlic was the best for relieving high blood pressure.
Prabhupada wrinkled his nose and grimaced slightly. “Garlic.”
Mr. Saigal smiled at his reaction. “Garlic. You don’t want it,” and they laughed together.
“Garlic, onions, prohibited,” Prabhupada told him.
So it was settled that his wife would cook aloe vera chapatis for breakfast. Prabhupada asked Gaurasundara prabhu if he knew of it, and he confirmed they had it in Hawaii. He added that it can be used externally for skin diseases, burns, and cuts.
As Mr. Saigal left the room to prepare for breakfast, Prabhupada concluded, “Body is simply troublesome.”

 Srila Prabhupada did say a lot of things about devotees taking care of their health.


The general instruction was “any kind of medicine is OK if it works.” He wasn’t particularly attached to any medical system although he did say, as quoted above in Bombay, that allopathic was medicine for the demons because of its strong side effects. He generally wouldn’t bother with it.

 The only allopathic medicine I saw him take on several occasions was a diuretic pill in order to reduce his frequent bouts of uremia. This is a condition caused by malfunctioning kidneys. The uric acid is not properly eliminated and the extremities of the body swell with fluid. It’s painful and Srila Prabhupada would sometimes take a half a diuretic pill to pass out some of the excess fluid. Once the swelling went down he would stop taking it.

 He did mention that even Ayurvedic medicines sometimes contain animal products:

[TD 3] June 27 New Vrindaban, West Virginia

 MW New Vrindaban

Morning walk in New Vrindaban June 1976 — (see photo gallery for more New Vrindaban photos) 

“As he sauntered along the road he noticed some patches of herbs growing along the side. “There is a class of men, they are called bediyas. They know all these herb, which herb is medicine for certain disease, and they sell in the market. Every one of these is meant for some medicine. They know it.”
I asked if that kind of information was in the Vedas.
Prabhupada said, “Ayur-veda. There is a book. Dravya-guna. All kinds of herbs, metals, even different kinds of flesh of different animals, they are mentioned. Hundreds of different kinds of animals’ flesh, how it can be utilized for certain disease, the descriptions are there.”
This was a little surprising to me. “They use flesh for curing diseases?”
“Yes.” Prabhupada said matter-of-factly, adding, “Animal killing is only allowed when it is absolutely necessary, for medicine. Suppose by killing one animal, hundreds of lives are saved, so that is allowed. One preparation is
chagalagdha-ghrta. A live goat is put into the ghee with other ingredients, and that is a good medicine for tuberculosis.”
Pusta Krsna was also a bit incredulous. “They actually cook the live goat in the ghee? Maybe we should withhold this science from the Western world for a while,” he said half-jokingly.
Prabhupada grinned. “No, you are expert already.”
I asked if it was done in the same mood as Vedic animal sacrifices where mantras were chanted to give new life to the animal.
Prabhupada shook his head. He said animals were sacrificed and reborn to test the potency of the mantra. But in this case the animal was used for medicine.”

 If he did decide to take medicine he favored Ayurvedic medicines. He didn’t have much regard for homeopathic or allopathic remedies. I once asked him what homeopathic medicine was. I was completely ignorant of it at that time. Srila Prabhupada laughed and said, “It is just some colored water.” Of course he was being rather dismissive of it, but he did consult with homeopathic doctors on a couple of occasions. However he never really seriously applied himself to taking their medicines.

 That was not because of any inherent prejudice against it. In general he just preferred not to take medicine:

[TD 4] August 15th, 1976 – Bombay

Dr. Patel on Juhu beach MW

Dr. Patel used to walk with Srila Prabhupada down Juhu beach — (see Photos for more Bombay pics.)

“Dr. Patel expressed his concern again for Srila Prabhupada’s own health. Taking permission to raise his question he asked, “Now then, Arjuna was so advised that he should fight out. So in that case, I mean we all consider he was right to follow Krsna’s advice? Then if a man is overtaken by disease and if he fights out that …”
Prabhupada smiled at his persistence. “No, no, I don’t say that he should not fight. It is my personal choice. Not that one should not take care of the body or one should not eat medicine, that is not … I like this, ‘Let me do without medicine.’ That is my personal …”
“What is medicine?” Dr. Patel asked. “Any herb is a medicine. Even food is a medicine.”
“Whatever it may be,” Prabhupada said. “I don’t decry medicine. That is not my business.”
“No, no, I don’t say decry. But you don’t want to take advantage of medicine,” Dr. Patel insisted.
“Medicine,” Prabhupada said objectively. “Just like a type of vairagya, sometimes they do not eat. That does not mean eating is forbidden. It is not. It is my personal, I am trying to avoid, that’s all.”

 Srila Prabhupada’s main medicine was to simply chant the holy names.

 I have personally had some good experiences with homeopathic medicine and you could try that route.
 Srila Prabhupada’s advice to devotees who were suffering chronic illness was to tolerate the difficulty while rendering what service they were capable of doing:

[TD 5] October 23rd, 1976 – Vrndavana

Bala Krsna also asked for some advice. One of his best distributors, Rudrani dasi, although only twenty-three years old, is so badly stricken with arthritis that she can barely sit, walk, or even sleep. Despite this, when she is able to go out, she sells twice as many books as anyone else. She has a strong desire to continue with her service, but no doctor has been able to help her. She is currently taking twenty-five aspirins a day just to be able to function. Bala Krsna expressed his reluctance to bother Srila Prabhupada, but due to frustration with any other solution, he now asked whether Srila Prabhupada could recommend any Ayurvedic doctor or medicine, or whether she should “just accept it as her karma and go on serving as best she can until she dies.”

Srila Prabhupada was as philosophical about her problem as he is about his own health. He offered no panacea other than that given by Krsna Himself. His advice came right out of the Gita 2.14 and eighty-one years of experience: “The girl who has got health problems must learn to be tolerant. As long as the material body will be there, there will only be pain. Pleasure is a misconception.”


Rudrani took Srila Prabhupada’s advice very seriously. She never deviated from her service and she eventually left in a most glorious fashion thirty years after receiving that letter:

Rudrani leaves her body on November 10, 2006

 Rudrani dasi

It is with regret that I inform you of the passing of Her Grace Rudrani Devi Dasi (ACBSP) who gave up her body this morning November 10th 2:45 AM PST.  Rudrani Prabhu was the sister of Padyavali Prabhu (ACBSP) and beloved wife of Sananda Prabhu (JPS)

Rudrani left her body at an auspicious time chanting the holy names of the Lord holding the hand of Santa, her sister in law, while looking at her beloved Tusli Maharani.

Best known for her dedicated service to Srimati Tulsi Devi, Rudrani along with her husband & sister in law oversaw the care of the Vancouver Temple Tulsi plants which were featured in the March/April 2006 issue of BTG.

Although throughout most of her devotional life she was plagued with a debilitated body, she was always tolerant and dedicated to serving her spiritual master His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Such a wonderful Vaisnavi as Rudrani will certainly be missed by all who had the good fortune of her association but beyond a shadow of a doubt her destination is certainly most auspicious having dedicated and displayed
vaisnava qualities throughout her life.
(From Jaya Govinda dasa)

Padyavali described the moments leading up to her sister’s departure… She said that Rudrani was feeling quite comfortable all day yesterday, and everything seemed to be going well. However, this morning at 2:00
AM, Rudrani called over to Shanti (who had been caring for her for many years, and who never left her side) to come over to her. Rudrani told Shanti that she felt an unusual sensation in her heart. They held hands and chanted the Holy Names (the Maha mantra) for some time. Shanti told her to concentrate on the picture of Vrndadevi (in gopi form) that was on the front cover of a very nice hand made get-well card (11″x16″) in which the devotees had written their well-wishes.

After a few moments, Rudrani responded, “I see the real Tulasi. I have to go now!” and left her body!
(From Bhava dasa)

 Srila Prabhupada gave the same advice that he had given to Rudrani to another lady devotee two days later:

[TD 5] October 25th 1976- Vrndavana

There was a poignant letter from Krsna Vilasini dasi in Los Angeles. She explained that she has a debilitating muscular disorder that over the last two years has practically incapacitated her. She can barely talk and has almost lost the use of her arms and legs. “Reading is very difficult but I force the issue because I am afraid I may not finish your books before I die.” Lamenting that she is unable to do even the simplest service, she wrote, “I am humbly asking if there is any way at all to regain even enough health to be able to sit and engage in some simple service . . . If it is my destiny to live a long time in this condition I am begging and crying that you will mercifully benedict me with spiritual strength to remain always at your lotus feet.”

Prabhupada was touched by her plea, but he again offered the same practical advice and philosophical perspective that he gave Rudrani dasi from Seattle two days ago. “As long as the body will be there, there will only be pain. Pleasure is only a misconception. Do not be sorry if you are in an ‘unfortunate’ situation. It can also be fortunate if you take advantage by becoming serious to become Krsna conscious. Follow the regulative principles, chant 16 rounds and as far as possible render service and study my books. Success is sure.”

 I have several seminars on the audio section of this website which cover the topic of health. You might find them useful to listen to.

 Sorry if this is not as specific as you were hoping for.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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