At age nineteen, my son moved to Portland, Oregon, USA, to live with a friend and his family. His goal was to be in a rock-and-roll band and become rich and famous. During this same time, my oldest daughter was getting ready to have her first child. When she went into labor, it was exciting, but the labor became long and difficult, with complications.
In the midst of an atmosphere of anxiety and concern, my children’s father called and wanted to know if I knew what my son was doing? I had spoken to my son a couple of days earlier, and he was working part time and taking some classes at a community college. His father then informed me that he had dropped all of those plans and had “gone and joined the Hare Krishnas!”
I felt a bit disconcerted as I tried to recall what I knew of the Hare Krishnas. My image was of young men dressed in orange costumes, jumping up and down and singing on street corners, and asking for money in airports. Not exactly the life I had envisioned my son pursuing. I told his father I had to close my mind to this new information until after the birth took place and everyone was okay.
Two weeks later, my husband and I traveled to the Hare Krishna temple in Portland to see what was going on. My son, dressed in a white dhoti and kurta, greeted us. He had a shaved head except for a tuft of hair left on the back. It was a shock to see him looking so different. I had absolutely no idea what all of these changes meant. I was going to find out.
We attended an evening arati, and I was at once drawn to the singing of the maha-mantra. The temple president gave a class, but I don’t remember the content. I certainly didn’t understand it. He answered our questions and listened to our concerns with compassion. He did his best to alleviate our fears. My greatest concern was the idea I had of ISKCON being a cult. Would my son turn away from his family and become brainwashed? It was only through experience that I learned how our relationship would change.
I left feeling very strange. I could not understand what had turned my son away from the life he knew to a culture that was so different. Yet there was something familiar and compelling as well. I thought I had done something wrong as a mother and went through a period of soul searching before deciding I needed to get more information on Krishna consciousness and learn why this philosophy attracted him. In my youth, I had always been searching for the Absolute Truth, and my experiences in life and religion were preparing me for this moment.
My Near-Death Experience
When I was eight years old, I had a near-death experience. I was born with a birth defect that required multiple surgeries. I knew I was in danger of dying with each surgery. After one, there were complications and my heart stopped. I left my body and, from the corner of the hospital room, witnessed the medical staff trying to resuscitate it. It was such a relief to be free of that body. I was happy to leave it behind, and I turned toward the light and tunnel.
But a presence stopped me and would not let me go any farther. I knew I didn’t want to go back into that body, but the presence said that I had to go back to the material world to “remember Him.”
Who was I suppose to remember? At that point, it felt like I was pulled back into my body, back to pain and suffering. There is medical documentation for such experiences, and my parents validated mine. This memory is as clear to me today as it was forty-two years ago. I knew from that moment on that I was more than my physical body. The many years that came after were preparing me for the next step of my journey.
After my first temple experience, I started reading books by Srila Prabhupada, attending programs at the Portland temple, and spending weekends when I could. As I came to understand the philosophy and mission of ISKCON, I became more and more attracted to becoming a devotee. I began to adjust my life to follow the regulative principles by starting to be a full-fledged vegetarian, chanting sixteen rounds a day, and avoiding intoxicants, illicit sex, and gambling.
On one of my weekend trips to the Portland temple, a sannyasi named Bir Krishna Dasa Goswami was visiting. I was very much drawn to his preaching and felt at ease talking to him about my life and Krishna consciousness. I started to write him regularly and knew he could guide me to become a devotee. I asked him to accept me as a disciple. By his mercy, I received initiation into the chanting of the holy name. I am eternally grateful to him for his guidance. I started doing service at the ISKCON temple in Vancouver, British Columbia, close to where I live. The devotees at the temple have been so merciful to me. They have become my spiritual family, and their association has helped me make progress in Krishna consciousness.
My son, Trikalajna Dasa, has been a brahmacari (celibate student) for a number of years now. Our relationship is closer and better than it ever was before he became a devotee. Other members of our family have become devotees, and the ones who have not are supportive of our way of life. ISKCON has totally changed my life, and now whomever I meet will hear about the glories of Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Human language is too limited for properly expressing my appreciation for the mercy of becoming a devotee. Now I understand the meaning of my near-death experience. It was to remember Him, Sri Krishna. Achieving love of Krishna is now the goal of my life and any future lives. I pray that life after life I may be placed as an atom at His lotus feet.