By far the spiritual medical tour has been Mayapur Worldwide’s best tour till date. On my way back I kept asking Krsna why this tour was so extra special compared to any other we had conducted in the past.
The answers came in many ways. We were serving the hands that heal. These were HIS servants. And HIS servants are very dear to him. Every medical staff in the group came from different faiths but their faith lie in God.
These doctors, nurses, pharmacist were serving at various NHS hospitals in London. They work under challenging circumstance with shortage of staff and skill mix in the midst of Government budget cuts. Nursing curriculums these days are more scientific than spiritual. One can barely comprehend why we chose this profession since there is no formal guidance in understanding the spiritual calling of nursing. With huge NHS budget cuts places a lot of anxiety for the manager of each department and thus this stress further filters to the staff. As an Intensive Care Sister working agency in many different hospitals I have an overview of the challenges in the NHS at different levels of medical care. After close association with my colleagues at Bhaktivedanta Hospital and studying their service closely, I realised the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai had a lot of insight rich in Vedic culture to share which could help bring back the real essence of nursing that has brought us into this very profession subconsciously, using a spiritual approach in the midst of all this challenge we are facing in nursing in the western world.
The Intensive care staff of the NHS Ealing hospital in London decided to open their heart and minds to this culture. Since we started the tour, they never looked back. They had so much to take home, review their own practice and share with their colleague’s what they had learnt.
Appreciating the holy land
The group as a whole understood that we were not just visiting India on a medical tour but Holy India. This was demonstrated by them very clearly that amongst thousands of spectators at the airport, each member of the group got down on their knees and paid respects to the holy land. It is worth mentioning here that our group was made up of medical staff from Ghana, Trinidad, Philippines, Poland, Tanzania and South Africa and of all faiths.
Living in an ashram
After the much hype of “Eat Pray Love” the group’s desire was to experience what it feels like to live in an ashram. They were mercifully provided an opportunity by Krsna to experience the most glorious ashram at ISKCON Juhu where the GBC for ISKCON Mayapur HG Praghosa das warmly welcomed them. The setting was majestic. The room decor was no different to a Buckingham Palace so they say. It was as if Krsna was receiving his most dear guests. We were extremely comfortable here and did not want to leave. The group expressed that it felt like home.
Experiencing Damodar & Diwali in India
The medical group were very fortunate to be given several opportunities to offer a ghee lamp in the holy month of Damodar. None of our group members were devotees and this was their first experience in offering a ghee lamp in the holy month of Damodar to a deity. In this holy month all good endeavours are multiplied by 1000. So by just offering a ghee lamp in this holy month is multiplied by 1000. Diwali is by far the biggest celebration of India. The group got to see in reality how Diwali is experienced in Kolkata celebrating the glory of Mother Kali on this holy day and in Mumbai celebrating the glory of Lord Ram’s homecoming. It was really a glorious experience and extremely colourful with road shows, music and fireworks.
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Visit to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital
The first person to greet you at the entrance of the hospital is Srila Prabhupada, the founder Acarya of ISKCON. The visit to the hospital was the highlight of our tour.
The Management and staff at the hospital were so hospitable. A sumptuous meal was provided and an extensive tour of the hospital was conducted by HG Vaishnava Seva das – one of the pioneers of the Bhaktivedanta Hospital.
The environment is so soothing. Not once will it ever occur to you that you are in a hospital. Instead of alarm bells you will be surprised to hear the constant soothing and healing chant of the Maha mantra in the background. Every detail of the hospital is patient friendly. The staircase is designed in such a way that it has a narrow up climb so as to assist a patient to easily walk up and down the stairs. Most hospitals have a steep up climb which very much deters anyone psychologically from using the stairs and thereby increases the use of the escalators by the staff and visitors. Bhaktivedanta Hospital is the only hospital I know where the staircase is so inviting. It is also the most spiritually patient friendly hospital I have seen. It is no wonder patients prefer to rather stay in this hospital than be discharged.
While most hospitals have an interfaith room for prayer the Bhaktivedanta Hospital has a temple with deities where the medical group were invited to participate in the Damodar programme and offer a ghee lamp. Daily the deities are taken to the patient’s bedside. The patient can then do an offering or take blessings from the deity. This supports the patient’s spiritual life in a way that spiritual lifestyle does not stop if you are admitted to hospital. It is a continuation of care. Even before any surgery the Bhagavad Gita is being read. This is a very humbling experience to realise that God is in control and we are merely the servants.
We learnt a lot on the outreach work that the hospital is doing. The group was very inspired to see that before work comes prayer. The most humbling message that came across was how the CEO and senior management staff are involved in cleaning the floors of the hospital yet respect and dealing with familiarity is intact and evident in their behaviour which is unheard of in the western hospitals. The group went home with so much information and enriched with ideas on how to improve their everyday working life in a spiritually uplifting way.
In nursing, we are always giving care to someone. Due to the nature of our stressful working conditions and our long working hours, it is very hard to give that care back to ourselves. So the tranquil setting of the Vedic Village in Kolkata successfully provided us with an environment of peace, harmony and tranquillity where we could give back to our body, mind and soul in preparation to accept the holy land of Mayapur. This helped us get in touch with nature, nurture our soul qualities and bring our bodies back to that natural state of being. We ended our stay at the Vedic Village with an informative talk and video of the Temple of Vedic Planetarium.
Mayapur – the holy land that heals by merely being there!
As a medical group the group were very interested to know that Mayapur naturally heals the body and mind at DNA level. The group enjoyed marvelling at the majestic buildings.
The newly appointed manager of Govindas invited us to take prasadam at the recently refurbished Govindas in Mayapur and he reminded us of the importance of taking and appreciating Krsna prasadam. The group thoroughly enjoyed each preparation.
Feeding the villagers is one spiritual activity every single group of Mayapur Worldwide really enjoys and till date is hailed as the BEST part of the tour. Shastra das and the Mayapur Harinaam FFL team never fails to perfectly arrange this service and give each member of the group an opportunity to serve the villagers of the holy land. The group were invited to partake in devotional group singing of the holy name and playing instruments which we all thoroughly enjoyed as we crossed the holy Ganges River at sunset. The group became very emotional and expressed that they would love to come back to do this service again. Dr Rufus, one of the medical doctors of the group got the entire audience chanting “Hare Krsna” and expressed that although he is of Christian faith he deeply appreciated the service of Shastra das and his group and was sure to return for more experience.
Srila Prabhupada Samadhi was magnanimous said the group. It was the very first time they were introduced to Srila Prabhupada and they were amazed of the work he accomplished in such a short span of time.
We ended the tour in Mayapur with Ganga Puja offering ghee lamp to Mother Ganges. This was on the auspicious day of Govardhan Puja which ISKCON Mayapur was celebrating.
Visit to Mother Theresa’s Home
Coming from a caring profession, it will not be complete if we did not pay a visit to Mother Theresa’s ashram. It was a very moving experience for us seeing her work in words and pictures. We were also very moved when our devotee guide mentioned that when HH Radhanath Swami visited Mother Theresa that as soon as the meeting was over she asked His Holiness if she can be excused as she had utensils to wash. This further encouraged us to go back home and take responsibility for our service that God placed in our hands.
The group said they pray with all this experience and knowledge that they can make a difference in the life of every medical staff they have to serve with in the future.
The group thank the staff of Bhaktivedanta Hospital for an amazing experience and sharing such valuable knowledge which they can take back for their own practice and also share with their colleagues.
On returning to London the group plans to stay in touch with the staff of Bhaktivedanta Hospital and visit the Bhaktivedanta Temple in Watford thereby staying in touch with ISKCON.
Mayapur Worldwide conducts 2 medical tours to Bhaktivedanta Hospital and Mayapur per year in February and November. Bookings for next November which is an introductory tour has begun and only a few places remain. In February the tour also includes the Barsana Eye camp.
For more information and tour bookings please contact Sukanti Radha dasi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.mayapurworldwide.com for more information.You can also visit www.bhaktivedantahospital.com for further information.