What Comes of Itself

[Listen to Asha read this story]

When he arrived in America for a two-month visit from his home in Italy, Swamiji’s health was poor and, as the weeks passed, it got worse. Finally, he was so weak he could barely walk. Swamiji was staying at the Crystal Hermitage and Jyotish and Devi, who live nearby, tried to persuade him to go see his doctor, but Swamiji refused.

One of the benefits of being at Ananda Village in America is that his long-time physician and friend, Dr. Peter Van Houten, lives there. Swamiji’s medical history is complex and Dr. Peter is the only one who knows the whole case. Swamiji doesn’t call the doctor every time he sneezes, but he does accept medical care. His condition seemed serious, so the intensity of his refusal was puzzling.

He didn’t have the energy to work, so he invited a few friends over to watch a video after dinner—Jyotish, Devi, me, and a few others. When we arrived, Swamiji was stretched out on the big blue recliner that is “his” chair in the small living room of his apartment at the Hermitage. It was clear from the stillness of his body, the slow way he moved, and how much he labored to breathe, that he was quite unwell. He greeted us happily, however, and started right in talking about which movie to watch.

When I had a chance, I asked, “How are you feeling, Sir?”

“Not well,” he replied.

“Have you seen Dr. Peter?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know he had already refused.

Swamiji was not fooled. “No!” he said emphatically.

We turned on the video, but it was hard to concentrate. With one ear, I listened to the movie, with the other ear I listened to Swamiji’s breathing, afraid that at any moment it might stop. I think everyone in the room was doing the same thing. A couple of times we took a break and put the movie on pause. Each time, Swamiji seemed weaker. When Devi again suggested we call Dr. Peter, Swamiji put what little strength he had into his reply, “Do not call the doctor!”

When the movie was over, none of us wanted to leave Swamiji alone. He looked like an accident or a heart attack waiting to happen. Devi made one last try, but Swamiji was adamant. It was too much for her, and really for all of us. We silently cheered when she went to the kitchen and called Dr. Peter anyway.

For just an instant, Swamiji seemed annoyed. Then, when he saw that Devi had taken the decision out of his hands, he relaxed completely and became almost childlike in his acceptance. A few minutes later, when Dr. Peter arrived, Swamiji was so warm and welcoming, it was hard to believe that just minutes before he had been absolutely set against the doctor coming.

Dr. Peter decided the probable cause was a blood sugar imbalance. The next day, tests confirmed the diagnosis. After a few days of medication, he was 100% better. For the rest of his time in America, Swamiji frequently referred to how unwell he had been and how fortunate he was to have Dr. Peter there to help him.

This was not the first or the last time I have seen Swamiji unwilling to take action when the only thing at stake is his own welfare. “I am here to get out of my ego,” Swamiji says, “not to protect it.” As long as he was asked to decide, he refused to ask for help. When the decision was taken out of his hands, he acquiesced.

One incident happened years before. This time the issue was not calling the doctor, but calling on Divine Mother for help.

It was 1968 and Ananda was brand new. Swamiji gave all the Sunday Services and classes himself (as well as teaching in the city throughout the week).

One Sunday morning at 9am he was suddenly smitten with a severe kidney stone attack. He was shaking with pain, like a leaf in a storm. Going to the hospital would have meant driving several miles over bumpy, unpaved roads. The journey would have been torturous. Besides, he had a service to give.

Despite his suffering, Swamiji would not pray for relief. His attitude is, “What comes of itself, let it come.” For almost two hours he suffered with intense pain. Women who have experienced both say that a kidney stone attack is more painful than childbirth.

Finally, fifteen minutes before the Sunday Service was scheduled to begin, Swamiji prayed to Divine Mother, “If you want me to give this Service, You’ll have to take away this pain.” It wasn’t a prayer for himself. It was for those who were coming to the Service to hear him.

Instantly, the pain disappeared. Swamiji still had difficulty giving the Service. This time, however, his difficulty in speaking was not because of the pain, but because of the joy. 

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