Besides taking care of spiritual life, Lord Jagannatha provides medical care to His devotee and brings her closer to Him.
The majority of people who approach God are in distress or in need of something. With their feeble faith, such people can only appreciate that God can solve all the problems in their material lives.Five years ago, my family shifted to Ghaziabad, UP. Although we worshiped goddess Durga, for the most part I lived a materialistic life that did not extend beyond my immediate family, friends, and relatives. Nonetheless, I occasionally prayed to Durga-devi to guide me toward liberation and bliss, no matter how difficult the path would be. It seems she took my prayers seriously.
Health in Crisis
Life was going on as usual when suddenly I fell sick. I developed a kind of heaviness in my abdomen that caused me severe pain. Initially I ignored it, thinking it was some minor ailment. But gradually the pain spread all over and my body swelled up. It was unbearable.
I consulted a number of doctors in Delhi, but nothing helped. They told me to stay away from milk and milk products because I would not be able to digest them. The pain kept increasing. Throughout six consecutive months I suffered many sleepless nights. My body became weak. Cracks started to appear in my bones. Pus oozed from the tips of my fingers and toes. I felt great fatigue. Often all my senses went numb. No amount of injections could cure me, and sleeping pills gave me no relief. During this time I consumed hundreds of pills and lost a huge amount of money on doctors’ bills it felt like money was pouring through my fingers like sand.
After numerous medical exams, the doctors finally diagnosed the disease: a combination of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), tuberculosis of the abdomen, and peptic ulcers. They warned me that I would only live for one or two more years. I was extremely depressed to hear this, and my family was extremely worried. They decided to perform rituals and other sacrifices to neutralize the bad influences caused by Rahu, Ketu, Maha-mrtyunjaya, and other inauspicious planets and elements. I wore all sorts of mystic gems and stones all over my body, hoping that would cure my ailments. But none of these things worked. I lost all hope and felt my life had come to a standstill.
Meeting with the Real Doctor
One day, my husband, who works in the Ministry of Railways, met some ISKCON devotees performing sankirtana at the India Gate. They gave him a japa-mala (a set of beads) and a pamphlet that explained how to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. He showed me the pamphlet and I decided to give chanting a try. I can’t explain what happened, but from the day I started chanting, I felt a surge of extraordinary energy. I was amazed to see that I was able to perform my household chores and could even sleep peacefully. I wanted to learn more about this magic mantra. We called the telephone number on the pamphlet my husband had received; it referred us to the local ISKCON temple in Ghaziabad. When I approached the temple I realized that it was the same temple I used to pass on my way to medical checkups. In fact, my auto-rickshaw driver used to go there to get khicari prasada every day. But on all those days, I never bothered to enter the temple and take darshana.
I began to visit the temple on a regular basis and soon became attracted to the Deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. Just by looking at Them, I felt filled with energy. One day, after attending the arati at noon, the pujari gave me makhan (butter) prasada. I was immediately reminded of the doctors’ words – they had warned me that if I ate any milk product, I would suffer a brain hemorrhage and die. In spite of this, I concluded that if I had to die, better to die in front of Lord Jagannatha. I honored the prasada. On returning home, I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I was expecting some serious health problems the next day, but fortunately nothing happened. And from that day onwards, I kept no regulations: I started honoring all of the Lord’s prasada, even if it was made with milk.
I quickly realized that I had received the mercy of Lord Jagannatha. Me, my husband, and our two children soon thereafter happily embraced the practices of Krishna consciousness.
Lord Jagannatha’s Arrival
Once, we visited the holy town of Jagannatha Puri. While we were there, my daughter asked if we could bring home our own Deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. I was reluctant because I was not sure if I could take proper care of Them. I told her that if Lord Jagannatha Himself came to our home, I would welcome Him and gladly perform His worship.
One day, while walking in a nearby park, I was amazed to see a set of Jagannatha Deities. My husband said, “Oh! How can Deities come here? You always think of Jagannatha, so He has come here.” We decided to bring the Lord to our home and begin worshipping Him. Now my family is complete, with Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, Their sister Subhadra, Sri Gopala, my husband, me, our daughter Richa, and our son Chetkar. All of us chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra every day, follow the four regulative principles no gambling, no meat eating, no intoxication, and no illicit sex and perform various services for the Lord. Lord Jagannatha has sorted out all our material problems.
Although the Vedic scriptures do not encourage one to perform devotional service for material benefit, Lord Krishna sometimes bestows material rewards upon His devotees. Such reciprocal exchanges are very pleasing to the devotee and they increase his or her faith in the process of devotional service. One must, however, always aspire to render pure unadulterated devotional service, untainted by material motivations. Only service of that sort will help one attain the highest goal of devotional service pure love of God.
Currently Bharti Jha and her family render various services at the ISKCON temple in Ghaziabad. They distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books and conduct many congregational programs in the city.