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Abortion, euthanasia
Question about homosexuality
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Abortion, euthanasia

Abortion brings a very negative karma. The child in the womb is a soul, a living being destined for a human body. This is true from the moment of conception.

sri-bhagavan uvaca
karmana daiva-netrena
jantur dehopapattaye
striyah pravista udaram
pumso retah-kanasrayah

"The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body." (Srimad Bhagavata Purana 3.31.1)

"Willful abortion and hatred of the husband are great sins in women without any expiation." (Garuda Purana 1.105.48)

"He who causes abortion, plunders a town, kills a cow, or strangles a man, goes to the Rodha hell (or that of obstruction)." (Visnu Purana 2.6. Wilson, 1840, p. 208, sacred-texts.com)

Puranic Encyclopedia:

KALODAKA. A sacred place. The sin of causing abortion of those who bathe in the tirtha here will be washed away. (Anusasana Parva, Chapter 25, Verse 60 and Santi Parva, Chapter 152, Verse 12).

NANDIKUNDA. A holy place. In Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Chapter 25, Stanza 60, it is mentioned that the sin incurred by causing abortion, will be washed away by taking a bath in this holy place.

SRAVASAUCA. Defilement attached to the flux due to abortion. It is ordered in Agni Purana, Chapter 258; how to observe this defilement. It is said that women should observe defilement for as many nights as the number of the months of pregnancy, till the flux. If the flux took place in the fourth month, defilement should be observed for three nights. If it was in the fifth month that the flux had occurred, pollution for ten days would have to be observed. This is meant for Brahmins. In the case of a Ksatriya woman if the flux occurred in the fifth month, she has to observe defilement for four days; and five days for a Vaigya. woman, and eight days for a Sudra woman. In the case of a Sudra woman, if the flux is after five months, she has to observe pollution for twelve days. In this stage the father will be purified by a bath. (This refers to miscarriage.)

dharma sastras:

Now (follows the enumeration of) the actions which cause loss of caste (Pataniya). (These are) stealing (gold), crimes whereby one becomes an Abhisasta, homicide, neglect of the Vedas, causing abortion, incestuous connection with relations born from the same womb as one's mother or father, and with the offspring of such persons, drinking spirituous liquor, and intercourse with persons the intercourse with whom is forbidden. (Apastamba Prasna I, Patala 7, Khanda 21, 7-8)

The sin accrued by an abortion is twice greater than sin committed by killing a brahmana. There is no atonement for this sin. (Parashara smriti 4.20; as per 1.24 this dharmasastra is specifically meant for Kali yuga)

A woman becomes an outcast by procuring abortion, by connection with a (man of) lower (caste) and (the like heinous crimes). (Gautama dharmasutra 21.9)

Libations of water shall not be offered to those who (neglect the prescribed rites and may be said to) have been born in vain, to those born in consequence of an illegal mixture of the castes, to those who are ascetics (of heretical sects), and to those who have committed suicide,
To women who have joined a heretical sect, who through lust live (with many men), who have caused an abortion, have killed their husbands, or drink spirituous liquor. (Manusamshita 5.89-90)

In a number of nights equal to the number of months after conception, a woman is purified from an abortion. (Visnu smriti 22.25) This refers to miscarriage since:

(The impurity) for a miscarriage (lasts for a number of days and) nights equal to (the number of) months from conception,
Or three days. (Gautama dharmasutra 14.17-18, similarly Manu 5.66)

If one has sex, then one must take responsibility for raising any child that is produced - or at least see to it that the child is raised by someone. One cannot escape suffering by committing sins. All suffering (such as rape, incest, conceiving an unwanted child, and so forth) is caused by reactions to sins performs either in this life or previous lives. If we commit the sin of murdering a child to avoid our reactions, we will *still* get our original reaction (perhaps in a different form, at a different time, or both) plus the reaction to the current sin. So, we compound our problem.

Legalizing abortion has not at all decreased the number of unwanted children in the world, or the number of mistreated children. In fact, easily available birth control and abortion has gone along with an increase in illegitimate and battered children.

Women who have abortions are often damaged psychologically and/or physically. Pregnancy is not just the result of sex. It is also the result of divine will.

purva janmani ya nari para balaka ghatanam
karoti kapate naiva bala hina bhaved dhruvam

Any woman who has destroyed another's child in previous births, surely becomes childless or barren in this life. (Padma Purana, Brahma Khanda 5.10)

purva janmani ya nari bhruna hatyam ca yo narah
kuryat sa mrta vatsa ca mrta vatso bhaved dhruvam

Any woman who in previous births had an abortion, or a man who suggested an abortion, because he or she killed a child, it is certain that a dead child will take birth in this life to them. (Padma Purana, Brahma Khanda 5.18)

Swallowing of Lord Shiva's sperm had subdued Agni's radiance. The deities advised him to take Lord Brahma's help. While he was on his way to Brahma loka, he came across a river named Kutila and requested her to hold Shiva's sperm. She agreed and requested him to release it in her waters. In course of time, she became pregnant. The thought of giving birth to an illegitimate child tormented her, so she went to Lord Brahma to take his advice. Lord Brahma instructed her to abort her foetus at Udyachal Mountain, which was covered by the dense forest of reed. Lord Brahma felt that it was a very safe place for her and nobody will be aware of this incident. Kutila followed his instructions. Kutila aborted her foetus just according to Lord Brahma's instructions. The foetus remained there for 10,000 years after which a child was born, radiant like a rising Sun and eyes like the petals of lotus flower. The child being hungry started to cry. At that time, all the six Kritikas were passing through that forest. They were so mesmerised by the child's beauty that they started quarrelling among themselves as to who should first feed breast milk to the child. Seeing their quarrel, the child appeared with his six heads. This way, all the six Kritikas fed their breast milk to the child at a time. This is the reason why Kartikeya has six heads. (Vamana Purana, Birth of Kaartikeya) (This is a special lila.)

Srimad Bhagavatam 3.30.22, purport: While we live in the gross body, such activities of sense gratification are encouraged even by modern government regulations. In every state all over the world, such activities are encouraged by the government in the form of birth control. Women are supplied pills, and they are allowed to go to a clinical laboratory to get assistance for abortions. This is going on as a result of sense gratification. Actually sex life is meant for begetting a good child, but because people have no control over the senses and there is no institution to train them to control the senses, the poor fellows fall victim to the criminal offenses of sense gratification, and they are punished after death as described in these pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

SB 5.14.9: In Bhagavad-gita (7.11) it is said: dharmaviruddho bhutesu kamo 'smi bharatarsabha. Sex is allowed only for the begetting of children, not for enjoyment. One can indulge in sex to beget a good child for the benefit of the family, society and world. Otherwise, sex is against the rules and regulations of religious life. A materialistic person does not believe that everything is managed in nature, and he does not know that if one does something wrong, he is witnessed by different demigods. A person enjoys illicit sex, and due to his blind, lusty desire he thinks that no one can see him, but this illicit sex is thoroughly observed by the agents of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the person is punished in so many ways. Presently in Kali-yuga there are many pregnancies due to illicit sex, and sometimes abortions ensue. These sinful activities are witnessed by the agents of the Supreme personality of Godhead, and a man and woman who create such a situation are punished in the future by the stringent laws of material nature (daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya). Illicit sex is never excused, and those who indulge in it are punished life after life. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (16.20):

asurim yonim apanna
mudha janmani janmani
mam aprapyaiva kaunteya
tato yanty adhamam gatim

"Attaining repeated birth among the species of demoniac life, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence."

The Supreme Personality of Godhead does not allow anyone to act against the stringent laws of material nature; therefore illicit sex is punished life after life. Illicit sex creates pregnancies, and these unwanted pregnancies lead to abortion. Those involved become implicated in these sins, so much so that they are punished in the same way the next life. Thus in the next life they also enter the womb of a mother and are killed in the same way. All these things can be avoided by remaining on the transcendental platform of Krishna consciousness. In this way one does not commit sinful activity. Illicit sex is the most prominent sin due to lusty desire. When one associates with the mode of passion, he is implicated in suffering life after life.

Science of Self Realization, ch. 1: Srila Prabhupada: So-called equal rights for women means that the men cheat the women. Suppose a woman and a man meet, they become lovers, they have sex, the woman becomes pregnant, and the man goes away. The woman has to take charge of the child and beg alms from the government, or else she kills the child by having an abortion. This is the woman's independence. In India, although a woman may be poverty-stricken, she stays under the care of her husband, and he takes responsibility for her. When she becomes pregnant, she is not forced to kill the child or maintain him by begging. So, which is real independence - to remain under the care of the husband or to be enjoyed by everyone?

Prayascitta:

...By observing this Apara Ekadasi many grave sinful activities are destroyed such as killing a brahmana, killing a cow, killing an embryo through abortion, criticizing others, illicit sex life, speaking lies, giving false witness, bragging to others, reciting or teaching the Vedas for the sake of money, and concocting one's own scripture. ... (Ekadasi Mahatmya)

...Sri Krishna concluded, "Oh King Yudhishthira, whoever reads or hears about PApamochanii EkAdasii obtains the very same merit he would get if he donated a thousand cows in charity, and he also nullifies the sinful reactions he may have incurred by killing a brAhmana, killing an embryo through abortion, drinking liquor, or having sex with his guru's wife. Such is the incalculable benefit of properly observing this holy day of PApamochanii EkAdasii, which is so dear to Me and so meritorious." Thus ends the narration of the glories of Chaitra-Krishna EkAdasii, or PApamochaniii EkAdasii, from the Bhavishya-uttara PurAna.

Lalitadevi had along with Mohan (Krsna), called 68 tirthas (holy places) to come and reside in her kunda and afford everyone the benefit of becoming free from the six types of hatya (murder): bhrna-hatya (abortion), krimi-hatya (killing of worms & insects), go-hatya (cow slaughter), brahma-hatya (killing of brahmans), svana-hatya, atma-hatya (suicide).

Related:
Hindu Ethics on the Moral Question of Abortion - Edward Omar Moad, University of Missouri - Columbia
Questions about suicide and ghosts

Q. What is the philosophical (Vedic) stand regarding euthanasia, or assisted suicide? If we take the view of Law of Karma then we will let things be as they are unless it is for a higher cause. What is the highest principle in this matter?

A. (Suhotra Prabhu, 23-Apr-95): Here are three statements about
euthanasia or mercy killing from Srila Prabhupada.

Talk with Bob Cohen -- February 27, 1972 (contd. on February 28, 1972 and February 29, 1972), Mayapura:

Srila Prabhupada: They say, "Oh, it is better to kill him than to give
him so much pain." That theory is coming in communist countries. An old man--grandfather--is suffering, so better to kill him. And
there--in Africa there is a class of men who make a festival by killing their great-grandfathers. Is it not? Yes.

Syamasundara: They eat them?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. [Syamasundara laughs.] Yes?

Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.40 -- Surat, December 21, 1970:

Himavati: But then if you think further, that is that if you are going
to make a program to feed the animals in your house, then won't more and more animals come into your residence? Suppose I feed these rats and I go on feeding them. Won't more and more rats come?

Prabhupada: Well, the rats will be fed. Either you give or not, it
will steal. So that is not the problem. But if you give them food,
they will... Of course, that is Western philosophy, that because the
animals are increasing, they should be killed. We Indians also, we
have taken that view--because we cannot give protection to the cows,
they must be sent to the slaughterhouse. That is the modern view. But that is not injunction of the Vedas. The Vedas says that everyone has right to live, every living entity. That is going on not only in consideration of the animals, even in human beings. Just like the
Americans, they were all Europeans, and they entered this American
land, killed so many red Indians. So these kind of things are going
on, but that does not mean that is the law. You killed so many red
Indians for your benefit, but you have to suffer for that. So that...
This is going on in the human society, but that does not mean it is
dharma. No. Dharma means you have to abide by the regulation given by the Vedas. You have to adjust things. Sometimes in Africa the man-eaters, they kill their grandfather, make a feast. The Russians also, they maintain such theory, that old men, they should be neglected. I have heard. I do not know. They become burden. But that is not Vedic injunction.

Himavati: But isn't that natural, just like no one wants to keep an
old bull in the barn?

Prabhupada: Yes. These things are man-manufactured. Dharman tu saksad bhagavat pranitam. Therefore we have to accept the words of Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is dharma.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.56-57 -- Bombay, August 14, 1975:

So they are very... Householder, this is meant for the householder
especially. This is ideal householder, that guru, agni, atithi,
vrddhanam. Old man also should be taken care of. Nowadays the
philosophy is coming: "mercy-killing." "Old men should be killed to
show him mercy." Because he is burden in the society, the communistic theory.... "Old man does not do anything and simply eats; therefore to show him mercy he should be killed." "Mercy-killing." Just see the philosophy, "Killing is mercy." But this is going on. "Mercy-killing." Is that? "Mercy-killing"? What is that? Huh?

Brahmananda: They kill someone for that person's benefit.

Prabhupada: Benefit. So the man killer, will he take that benefit? If
somebody comes that "I shall kill you for your benefit," that he will
be afraid of, but he is philosophising, "mercy-killing." This is going
on. So one should be respectful also to the old men. According to
Vedic knowledge, brahmana, old men, child, woman, and cow--they have no fault. They are free. They are not within this jurisdiction of law. So therefore cow-killing, brahmana-killing, woman-killing, and
elderly-person-killing, they are accepted as the great sinful activities.

The above 3 references put euthanasia into the Vedic perspective. But it seems to me that your question is not really about euthanasia. If a devotee refuses medication or fasts until he leaves his body, (1) he is doing it to himself, not to another person, and (2) he is doing it
in preparation for going back home, back to Godhead, not to get free
of bodily distress. Such a devotee knows that it is time for him to
leave this world. So why continue maintaining the body? This is not
the same as suicide. It is not done as a means of getting free of a
painful condition of life. That is specifically defined by Lord Caitanya as "harassment" of the Supreme Lord. There is a story illustrating this very point narrated by Locan das Thakura in his Caitanya Mangala, about a South Indian brahmana who vowed to commit suicide in the presence of Lord Jagannatha because he could not endure his extreme poverty any longer. Lord Caitanya became very unhappy with this person.

In the US there is a doctor named Kevorkian who has build a rolling
suicide laboratory in the back of a van. People who are terminally ill
and suffering greatly from the disease call him, and he puts them in
his van, sticks a needle in their arm, and tells them to press a button that will inject a powerful drug into their bloodstream that brings on unconsciousness and death. These unfortunate people think that death is the end of all suffering, so if death is made as painless as possible, that's the best way to go. "The best death" for a karmi is to die in peaceful sleep (total ignorance, in other words). But there is a next life which is determined by the thoughts of our last moments in this life. It doesn't take much imagination to envision where an unconscious person will end up in his next birth.

You can't compare such an artificial contrivance as Dr. Kevorkian's
suicide van, which is aimed at smothering pain with ignorance and
which exemplifies the philosophy of soulless atheism, with a devotee's preparing himself to go back home, back to Godhead by renouncing food and medication and simply absorbing himself in the hearing and chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord. (end of Suhotra Prabhu's answer)

Garuda Purana 2.22.8-13: "Those who meet with foul death such as
committing suicide by hanging from a tree, by poison or weapon, those who die of cholera, those who are burnt to death alive, those who die of foul and loathsome diseases or at the hands of robbers, those who are not cremated duly after death, those who do not follow sacred rites and conduct, those who do not perform Vrsotsarga and monthly pinda rites, those who allow sudras to bring sacrificial grass, twigs and other articles of homa, those who fall from mountains and die, those who die when walls collapse, those who are defiled by women in their menses, those who die in the firmament and those who are forgetful of Visnu, those who continue to associate with persons defiled due to births or death, those who die of dog-bitting or meet with death in a foul manner, become ghosts and roam over the earth."

To "let things go in order not to interfere in one's karma" is a static, or passive understanding of karma. But karma is defined by dharma and ultimately para-dharma (pleasing Krsna). This is the highest principle.

Related:
Fasting to death

Question about homosexuality

Q: What is the Vedic view of homosexual orientation?

A: (This is our take based on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. To our knowledge there is no official ISKCON position.)

Homosexual orientation is certainly not good (i.e. dharmic; sexual relationship between persons of same sex is not viewed positively by any theistic tradition, as far as we know), but it may not be something that a person can control in a spiritually impure state. That orientation may be caused by various physical and/or psychological factors in this or previous lives.

But _action_ is a different thing. I may be inclined to steal but I must control my actions. Controlling my actions does, indeed, imply controlling my thoughts, as well, as what I meditate on I will surely do eventually.

Dharmic sex means in marriage, to conceive children (BG 10.28). This way God has designed it. Anything else will bring negative karma and suffering. It is not a question of human (in)tolerance in a particular society or environment. One of homosexual mentality who cannot adjust to normal marriage can remain celibate, which will be a great blessing for him or her.

In ISKCON there are quite some homosexual devotees. If they follow the four regulative principles as others, there is no problem. Usually it is a bit hard to live in asram for them so they may be more comfortable living outside as congregation members. They should have as much sanga and seva as possible to minimize temptation.

Ultimately any material sexuality is to be transcended if one wants to enter the spiritual realm of Krishna.

Quotes:

Lord Brahma then gave birth to the demons from his buttocks, and they were very fond of sex. Because they were too lustful, they approached him for copulation. (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.20.23)

ye tu muuDhaa duraachaaraa viyonau maithune rataaH
purushheshhu su dushhpraGYaaH kliibatvaM upayaanti te
pashuu.nshcha ye bandhayanti ye chaiva guru talpagaaH
prakiirNa maithunaa ye cha kliibaa jaayanti te naraaH

"Those foolish men of evil conduct who engage in all forms of intercourse, taking advantage of improper wombs, and forcing themselves upon other men (pumsaka), are born again without their organs as neuters." (Mahabharata 13.133.51-52, Pune critical edition (incomplete text), MBh, Anusasana Parva, part 2, section CXLV, p. 313 (Ganguly edition, complete text)) The word "viyoni", or improper womb, refers to the womb of another man's wife, the mother, sister, animal or child.

A twice-born man who engages in intercourse with a male, or with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the daytime, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes. (Manusmriti 11.175)

Striking a brahmana, smelling obnoxious items such as liquor, cheating, and engaging in intercourse with a male, are declared to cause the loss of caste. (Manusmriti 11.68)

Prabhupada's Lectures, General - 1975, 750703AR.CHI:

Prabhupada: Now this progeny is bother. It is sense enjoyment, homosex. Progeny, they don't want. They're not interested. Only sense gratification. This is another sign of impotence. When after enjoying so many women, they become impotent, then they artificially create another sex impulse in homosex. This is the psychology. So people are degraded so much. Especially in the...

Morning Walk, Perth, May 9, 1975, 750509MW.PER:

Amogha: In one high school here they asked the question whether we accept homosexuality. And I said, "Of course not. This is only a perversion." And they said, "This is nature's way to stop overpopulation," because there won't be any children. So much foolish.
Prabhupada: How degraded the human society is becoming. And the children, they are discussing.
Amogha: It seems that step by step, in the law courts and the judges, everyone is step by step accepting more and more degradation, and making it legal, everything.
Jayadharma: Even when a man commits first-degree murder he only gets ten years' jail. There are cases of people committing cold-blooded murder and only getting ten years' jail. And then after that, getting out again and doing the same thing.

Morning Walk, Vrindaban, September 6, 1975, 750906MW.VRN:

Brahmananda: Actually you're supposed to see other women as mother.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Brahmananda: But not one's own wife.
Prabhupada: No. Para-daresu. Matravat para-daresu. That is the injunction of the sas... Other's wife. Not that "Oh, my wife is also my mother." Just see. This lunacy is going on, and this lunatic man is taken as incarnation of God. This is going on. This homosex propaganda is another side of impotence. So that is natural. If you enjoy too much, then you become impotent.
Brahmananda: They are trying to make that more and more accepted in America, homosex.
Prabhupada: Yes. The churches accept. It is already law.
Nitai: This women's liberation movement, the leaders are also homosexual. They're lesbians.
Prabhupada: (laughs) Just see. Hare Krsna. The whole world is on the verge of ruination. Kali-yuga. (break)

Questions about suicide and ghosts

Q: Hello I have a big problem. I want to take my life. What are I am going to do? Please help me!

A: Whatever you do, do not commit suicide. It won't help. You will just wake up on the other side and find that nothing has changed. You will still be there with the same unfulfilled urges, with the same frustrations and hang ups, except now you won't have a gross physical body by which to do something about it.

It is stated in the Vedas that those who commit suicide become ghosts. For a certain period of time they have to suffer in their subtle bodies - consisting of the mind, intelligence, and false ego - without any means to alleviate their pains.

You cannot escape your mind. You may escape your physical body, but your psychic body follows you to the other side. Unless you learn to control the mind you will always be haunted by it, a victim of uncontrollable desires, which burns like a fire, and which can never be satiated. Eventually you will get another gross body and again you can engage in the illusory and useless pursuit of trying to become satisfied by sensual pleasure. This whole material world is aimed at teaching you the futility of trying to satisfy your body.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that the mind can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. An uncontrolled mind becomes our enemy, a controlled mind becomes our friend. In any case everyone is suffering or enjoying in this world according to his own activities.

But in fact you are eternal, and you are full of knowledge and bliss, but due to forgetfulness of your real nature, you are now instead identifying with your body and mind, and therefore identifying with the pains and pleasures of the body and mind. The solution is to purify the mind by the bhakti-yoga process and become reinstated in your original position as the eternal servant of God. In stead of being absorbed in how you can serve your senses you should become absorbed in how you can serve God.

Only this will bring you real lasting happiness. It is very simple to serve God in this age. Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra you will no doubt become yourself again and experience the nectar for which you are always hankering. Try it! What have you got to lose?

You simply repeat the following mantra every day for, say, 20 minutes, and you are guaranteed to become free from anxiety and angst.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Just let the sweet names of God soothe your mind. You do not have to think, you do not have to reflect, all you have to do is listen to these names of Krishna as you repeat them softly to yourself. Do that and your life will be sublime.

Please feel free to report back to me and tell me how it went, or if you have any further questions or comments.

Q: What do the Vedas say about ghosts?

A: Garuda Purana, which has a lot of information on topics like death, life after death and funeral ceremonies related to it etc., says that ghosts are very sinful people. One becomes a ghost usually upon dying a violent death, e.g. by falling from great heights, by being burnt, by being beaten to death, by accident, by drowning, by poison, or by committing suicide. To become a ghost is the result of a sinful life, i.e. having broken the laws of nature without caring for the plights of other living beings.

Ghostly existence - existing in an subtle aerial body - is a very frustrating experience, as you are still afflicted by the urges of gross physical life like hunger, thirst, envy, greed, sex etc., but you have no means of satisfying or getting rid of these urges. Therefore they always try to make trouble for others who have gross bodies, especially the ones they were attached to in their previous life.

The only way to avoid ghosts is to perform pious activities, or even better to become reinstated in spiritual life. Especially Lord Nrsimhadeva protects us from all kinds of ghosts and subtle beings. There is a specific Nrsimha mantra which is guaranteed to drive away all ghosts:

om hrim kshraum
ugra viram mahavishnum jvalantam sarvato mukham
nrsimham bishanam bhadram mrityum mrityu namamy aham

You can also free a ghost from his ghostly existence by making an offering of food to Visnu on his behalf and feeding this prasadam to a bona fide brahmana. Your local temple could help you in this regard.

Q: How do I get rid of ghosts in my house?

A: There are different types of ghostly beings and some are harder to get rid of than others.

In many cases it's enough to simply tell the ghosts to go away, explaining their situation.

If you know the dead person and the reason for the haunting, try settling the unsettled issues. Then arrange for a puja or a Mass on their behalf. According to Gita Mahatmya of Padma Purana reading of 3rd, 7th and 8th chapter of Bhagavad Gita and mentally offering them the result helps them to get released from their situation.

Clean the house completely and line the sill of each window and door with a thin line of sea salt (available in most supermarkets.)

There should be chanting and singing of Sri Krsna's and Sri Nrsimha's names (Nrsimha kavaca is especially efficient), reciting of Srimad Bhagavatam (or playing a record of Srila Prabhupada), pictures of Sri Nrsimhadeva around the house, burning maha incense, blowing conches, etc.

(Jagannath Misra das:)
- put some carbon under the bed in a plate
- place some scissors or pointy stuff near the bed
- place a glass of water near the bed, discard it in the morning
- draw the name of Rama ('Sri Rama') with tilak paste on the windows of the room

(Abhiram:) I did the tilak thing on a friend's house and it worked! Before it was a discotheque of ghosts every night and now it is normal.

Astrologer Shyamasundara P. recommends sincere prayers and worship of Vamanadeva and mentions methods of exorcism which are utilized in the Catholic Church which has one priest in each diocese who specializes in exorcism. He knows some exorcists too. Jaya Tirtha Charan P. from New Zealand does exorcisms and has some interesting info here.

Related:
Abortion, euthanasia
Dying, Yamaraja and Yamadutas
States of consciousness and dreams (Vedanta sutra)
Garuda Purana exceprts
Creation
New Age vs. Vedic tradition
Ghosts - FAQ

War

War is an inherent phenomena in this material world. The individuals, societies, races, nations and ignorant religious fanatics have different interests from that of the Supreme Lord and thus they fight. This is an adharmic war (not based on dharma). Dharmic war (on behalf of dharma) leads to the suppression of such elements. They do not understand their natural position of the servants of the Lord. Therefore as long as there will be lack of this understanding (Krishna consciousness) the lasting peace is impossible regardless of any political solutions. Politicians need to be guided by spiritually intelligent men (brahmanas) who know the Vedic scriptures and are able to apply them practically.

Dharmic war

According to the Vedic scriptures the war is necessary when the materialism and atheism prevail over dharma, eternal religious principles established by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. This creates an imbalance in the universal order (dharma) which has to be corrected. At that time the ksatriyas (warriors) have to protect the dharma on the battlefield. This was also a duty of Arjuna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. He tried to avoid it but Krishna, the Supreme Lord, told him (Bhagavad-gita As It Is 2.27):

jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur
dhruvam janma mrtasya ca
tasmad apariharye 'rthe
na tvam socitum arhasi

One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.

Purport:

One has to take birth according to one's activities of life. And after finishing one term of activities, one has to die to take birth for the next. In this way one is going through one cycle of birth and death after another without liberation. This cycle of birth and death does not, however, support unnecessary murder, slaughter and war. But at the same time, violence and war are inevitable factors in human society for keeping law and order.

Such a war is lead according to the strict principles of the scriptures to avoid the suffering of the civil population (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.36):

mattam pramattam unmattam
suptam balam striyam jadam
prapannam viratham bhitam
na ripum hanti dharma-vit

A person who knows the principles of religion does not kill an enemy who is careless, intoxicated, insane, asleep, afraid or devoid of his chariot. Nor does he kill a boy, a woman, a foolish creature or a surrendered soul.

Purport:

An enemy who does not resist is never killed by a warrior who knows the principles of religion. Formerly battles were fought on the principles of religion and not for the sake of sense gratification. If the enemy happened to be intoxicated, asleep, etc., as above mentioned, he was never to be killed. These are some of the codes of religious war. Formerly war was never declared by the whims of selfish political leaders; it was carried out on religious principles free from all vices. Violence carried out on religious principles is far superior to so-called nonviolence.

The role of a pious king is to keep the society in a harmony with the Lord's plan by suppressing the criminal elements. Nowadays the governments are impotent because they lack proper guidance and thus the current world is a hotbed for wars (SB 1.10.25):

yada hy adharmena tamo-dhiyo nrpa
jivanti tatraisa hi sattvatah kila
dhatte bhagam satyam rtam dayam yaso
bhavaya rupani dadhad yuge yuge

Whenever there are kings and administrators living like animals in the lowest modes of existence, the Lord in His transcendental form manifests His supreme power, the Truth Positive, shows special mercy to the faithful, performs wonderful activities and manifests various transcendental forms as is necessary in different periods and ages.

Purport:

As mentioned above, the cosmic creation is the property of the Supreme Lord. This is the basic philosophy of Isopanisad: everything is the property of the Supreme Being. No one should encroach upon the property of the Supreme Lord. One should accept only what is kindly awarded by Him. Therefore, the earth or any other planet or universe is the absolute property of the Lord. The living beings are certainly His parts and parcels, or sons, and thus every one of them has a right to live at the mercy of the Lord to execute his prescribed work. No one, therefore, can encroach upon the right of another individual man or animal without being so sanctioned by the Lord. The king or the administrator is the representative of the Lord to look after the management of the Lord's will. He must therefore be a recognized person like Maharaja Yudhisthira or Pariksit. Such kings have full responsibility and knowledge from authorities about the administration of the world. But at times, due to the influence of the ignorance mode of material nature (tamo-guna), the lowest of the material modes, kings and administrators come into power without knowledge and responsibility, and such foolish administrators live like animals for the sake of their own personal interest. The result is that the whole atmosphere becomes surcharged with anarchy and vicious elements. Nepotism, bribery, cheating, aggression and, therefore, famine, epidemic, war and similar other disturbing features become prominent in human society. And the devotees of the Lord or the faithful are persecuted by all means. All these symptoms indicate the time of an incarnation of the Lord to reestablish the principles of religion and to vanquish the maladministrators. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita.

Srimad Bhagavatam 4.20.14:

sreyah praja-palanam eva rajno
yat samparaye sukrtat sastham amsam
hartanyatha hrta-punyah prajanam
araksita kara-haro 'gham atti

To give protection to the general mass of people who are citizens of the state is the prescribed occupational duty for a king. By acting in that way, the king in his next life shares one sixth of the result of the pious activities of the citizens. But a king or executive head of state who simply collects taxes from the citizens but does not give them proper protection as human beings has the results of his own pious activities taken away by the citizens, and in exchange for his not giving protection he becomes liable to punishment for the impious activities of his subjects.

Purport:

The question may be raised here that if everyone engaged in spiritual activities to attain salvation and became indifferent to the activities of the material world, then how could things as they are go on? And if things are to go on as they ought to, how can a head of state be indifferent to such activities? In answer to this question, the word sreyah, auspicious, is used here. The division of activities in society as arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead was not blindly or accidentally created, as foolish people say. The brahmana must do his duty properly, and the ksatriya, the vaisya and even the sudra must do the same. And every one of them can achieve the highest perfection of life - liberation from this material bondage. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (18.45). Sve sve karmany abhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah: "By executing one's prescribed duties, one can attain the highest perfection."

Lord Visnu advised Maharaja Prthu that a king is not enjoined to give up his kingdom and the responsibility of protecting the prajas, or citizens, to instead go away to the Himalayas for liberation. He can attain liberation while executing his royal duties. The royal duty or the duty of the head of state is to see that the prajas, or the general mass of people, are doing their respective duties for spiritual salvation. A secular state does not necessitate a king or head of state who is indifferent to the activities of the prajas. In the modern state the government has many rules and regulations for conducting the duties of the prajas, but the government neglects to see that the citizens advance in spiritual knowledge. If the government is careless in this matter, the citizens will act whimsically, without any sense of God realization or spiritual life, and thus become entangled in sinful activities.

An executive head should not be callous to the welfare of the general mass of people while he simply goes on collecting taxes. The king's real duty is to see that the citizens gradually become fully Krishna conscious. Krishna conscious means completely free from all sinful activities. As soon as there is complete eradication of sinful activities in the state, then there will be no more war, pestilence, famine or natural disturbances. This was actually prevailing during the reign of Maharaja Yudhisthira. If a king or head of the government is able to induce the citizens to become Krishna conscious, then he is worthy to rule over the mass of people; otherwise, he has no right to levy taxes. If the king looks after the spiritual interests of the citizens, he can levy taxes without difficulties. In this way both the subjects and the king will be happy during this life, and in the next life the king will be able to share one sixth of the pious activities of the citizens. Otherwise, by levying taxes on the sinful citizens, he will have to share the reactions of their sinful activities.

This same principle can be applied to parents and spiritual masters as well. If parents simply give birth to children like cats and dogs but cannot save their children from imminent death, they become responsible for the activities of their animalistic children. Lately, such children are turning into hippies. Similarly, if a spiritual master cannot direct his disciples to become free of sinful activities, he becomes responsible for their sinful acts. These subtle laws of nature are unknown to the present leaders of society. Since the leaders of society have a poor fund of knowledge and the citizens in general are rogues and thieves, there cannot be an auspicious situation for human society. At the present moment the whole world is full of such an incompatible combination of state and citizens, and therefore there is constant tension, war and anxiety as an inevitable result of such social conditions.

Srimad Bhagavatam 4.20.21, purport:

This kind of government cannot check the resultant actions of sinful life, namely war, pestilence, famine, earthquakes and similar other disturbances. Nature's law is that as soon as there are discrepancies in regard to the law of God (which are described in Bhagavad-gita as dharmasya glanih, or disobedience to the laws of nature or God), at once there will be heavy punishment in the form of sudden outbreaks of war. We have recently experienced a war between India and Pakistan. Within fourteen days there have been immense losses of men and money, and there have been disturbances to the entire world. These are the reactions of sinful life. The Krishna consciousness movement is meant to make people pure and perfect. If we become even partially pure, as described in the Bhagavatam (nasta-prayesv abhadresu), by development of Krishna consciousness, then lust and greed, the material diseases of the citizens, will be reduced. This can be made possible simply by broadcasting the pure message of Srimad Bhagavatam, or Krishna consciousness. Big commercial and industrial firms have contributed many thousands of rupees to a defense fund that burns the money in the form of gunpowder, but unfortunately, if they are asked to contribute liberally to advance the Krishna consciousness movement, they are reluctant. Under the circumstances, the world will periodically suffer from such upsurges and outbreaks of war, which are the consequences of not being Krishna conscious.

Srimad Bhagavatam 5.12.7, purport:

The Lord incarnates and sets things in order when things are mismanaged by so-called kings and heads of government. As Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata. Of course this takes many years, but the principle is there. When the king or governmental head does not follow the proper principles, nature deals out the punishments in the forms of war, famine and so forth. Therefore if the governmental head is not aware of life's goal, he should not take charge of ruling the people. Actually the supreme proprietor of everything is Lord Visnu. He is the maintainer of everyone. The king, the father, and the guardian are simply representatives of Lord Visnu, empowered by Him to look after the management and maintain things. It is therefore the duty of the head of the state to maintain the general populace in such a way that people will ultimately know the goal of life. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. Unfortunately the foolish governmental head and the general populace do not know that the ultimate goal of life is to understand and approach Lord Visnu. Without this knowledge, everyone is in ignorance, and all society is crowded with cheaters and cheated.

Adharmic war

The root cause of adharmic war is a demoniac (materialistic and atheistic) mentality This mentality is characterized by the egoistic desire for sense gratification ("I am the enjoyer and the controller") at the cost of others, especially the helpless ones (for example animals) (BG 16.9):

etam drstim avastabhya
nastatmano 'lpa-buddhayah
prabhavanty ugra-karmanah
ksayaya jagato 'hitah

Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world.

Purport:

The demoniac are engaged in activities that will lead the world to destruction. The Lord states here that they are less intelligent. The materialists, who have no concept of God, think that they are advancing. But according to Bhagavad-gita, they are unintelligent and devoid of all sense. They try to enjoy this material world to the utmost limit and therefore always engage in inventing something for sense gratification. Such materialistic inventions are considered to be advancement of human civilization, but the result is that people grow more and more violent and more and more cruel, cruel to animals and cruel to other human beings. They have no idea how to behave toward one another. Animal killing is very prominent amongst demoniac people. Such people are considered the enemies of the world because ultimately they will invent or create something which will bring destruction to all. Indirectly, this verse anticipates the invention of nuclear weapons, of which the whole world is today very proud. At any moment war may take place, and these atomic weapons may create havoc. Such things are created solely for the destruction of the world, and this is indicated here. Due to godlessness, such weapons are invented in human society; they are not meant for the peace and prosperity of the world.

BG 16.16:

aneka-citta-vibhranta
moha-jala-samavrtah
prasaktah kama-bhogesu
patanti narake 'sucau

Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell.

Purport:

The demoniac man knows no limit to his desire to acquire money. That is unlimited. He thinks only of how much assessment he has just now and schemes to engage that stock of wealth further and further. For that reason, he does not hesitate to act in any sinful way and so deals in the black market for illegal gratification. He is enamored by the possessions he has already, such as land, family, house and bank balance, and he is always planning to improve them. He believes in his own strength, and he does not know that whatever he is gaining is due to his past good deeds. He is given an opportunity to accumulate such things, but he has no conception of past causes. He simply thinks that all his mass of wealth is due to his own endeavor. A demoniac person believes in the strength of his personal work, not in the law of karma. According to the law of karma, a man takes his birth in a high family, or becomes rich, or very well educated, or very beautiful because of good work in the past. The demoniac think that all these things are accidental and due to the strength of one's personal ability. They do not sense any arrangement behind all the varieties of people, beauty and education. Anyone who comes into competition with such a demoniac man is his enemy. There are many demoniac people, and each is enemy to the others. This enmity becomes more and more deep - between persons, then between families, then between societies, and at last between nations. Therefore there is constant strife, war and enmity all over the world.

SB 4.26.5:

asurim vrttim asritya
ghoratma niranugrahah
nyahanan nisitair banair
vanesu vana-gocaran

At that time King Puranjana was very much influenced by demoniac propensities. Because of this, his heart became very hard and merciless, and with sharp arrows he killed many innocent animals in the forest, taking no consideration.

Purport:

When a man becomes too proud of his material position, he tries to enjoy his senses in an unrestricted way, being influenced by the modes of passion and ignorance. He is thus described as asuric, or demoniac. When people are demoniac in spirit, they are not merciful toward the poor animals. Consequently, they maintain various animal slaughterhouses. This is technically called suna, or himsa, which means the killing of living beings. In Kali-yuga, due to the increase of the modes of passion and ignorance, almost all men are asuric, or demoniac; therefore they are very much fond of eating flesh, and for this end they maintain various kinds of animal slaughterhouses.

In this age of Kali the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they also must be slaughtered like animals in big wars. This is very much evident in the Western countries. In the West, slaughterhouses are maintained without restriction, and therefore every fifth or tenth year there is a big war in which countless people are slaughtered even more cruelly than the animals. Sometimes during war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse and by hunters in the forest. Proud, demoniac persons do not know the laws of nature, or the laws of God. Consequently, they unrestrictedly kill poor animals, not caring for them at all. In the Krishna consciousness movement, animal-killing is completely prohibited. One is not accepted as a bona fide student in this movement unless he promises to follow the four regulative principles: no animal-killing, no intoxication, no illicit sex and no gambling. This Krishna consciousness movement is the only means by which the sinful activities of men in this Kali-yuga can be counteracted.

SB 8.8.38:

mithah kalir abhut tesam
tad-arthe tarsa-cetasam
aham purvam aham purvam
na tvam na tvam iti prabho

O King, a quarrel then arose among the demons over who would get the nectar first. Each of them said, "You cannot drink it first. I must drink it first. Me first, not you!"

Purport:

This is the symptom of demons. The first concern of a nondevotee is how to enjoy his personal sense gratification at once, whereas the devotee's first concern is to satisfy the Lord. This is the distinction between the nondevotee and the devotee. In this material world, since most people are nondevotees, they regularly compete, fight, disagree and war among themselves, for everyone wants to enjoy and satisfy his own senses. Therefore, unless such demons become Krishna conscious and are trained to satisfy the senses of the Lord, there can be no question of peace in human society or any society, even that of the demigods. The demigods and devotees, however, always surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord, and thus the Lord is always anxious to satisfy their ambitions. While the demons fight to satisfy their own senses, devotees engage in devotional service to satisfy the senses of the Lord. The members of the Krishna consciousness movement must be alert in regard to this point, and then their preaching of the Krishna consciousness movement will be successful.

War prevention

The only real remedy is a higher knowledge and the subtle purification from the material contamination in the heart by the process of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Krishna:

Matchless Gifts, ch. 4 (Learning Tapasya, Self-Control):

In answer, Sukadeva Gosvami said that merely counteracting karma, fruitive activities, by other activities cannot bring one's miseries to a final end. For example, the United Nations is attempting to establish peace in the world, but they cannot stop war. War breaks out again and again. After the First World War statesmen and diplomats manufactured the League of Nations. Then the Second World War came, and now they have devised the United Nations, but war is still going on. The actual goal is to stop war, but that cannot be done. By one action war is created, and by another action war is stopped for the time being, but again at the next opportunity there is another war. The cycle of sinful activities and atonement is like that. What we actually want is to be free from suffering and war, but that does not happen.

Sukadeva Gosvami said that one kind of war causes a disturbance, and another kind of war stops it for some time, but that is not the ultimate solution to the problem. Sukadeva states that these troubles happen due to ignorance: avidvad-adhikaritvat. Avidvat means "lack of knowledge." Avidvat-adhikaritvat prayascittam vimarsanam. Real atonement is performed in knowledge. Why is there fighting and why are there miseries? Unless these "why" questions, which in the Vedas are called Kena Upanisad, arise in one's mind, one is not fulfilling the proper function of his human life. These questions must arise: "Why am I suffering? Wherefrom have I come? What is my constitutional position? Where shall I go after death? Why am I put into a miserable form of life? Why are there birth, death, old age and disease?"

Related:
War

Questions about women

Q: In the majority of cultures women have been subservient due to biological factors and power plays. This does not reflect upon women's intelligence. So why do your scriptures say women are less intelligent?

A: A side comment: Ability to reason, foresee consequences and make rational decisions is influenced by biological factors, too (e.g., menstruation).

If I have understood you correctly, you are implying the teachings of the scriptures are colored, or distorted, by cultural factors, or perhaps by the fact they were an instrument in the men's fight for supremacy. I do not agree with this. The books are indeed written in the context of a culture and they do reflect the social reality of those times, but the authors as individuals were far above sexism or power plays. Thus the message of these books cannot be harmful, but it must be decoded, expressed in a more modern language, and properly understood. This is one reason why we have to write essays, letters and articles explaining these controversial points.

The Vaisnava scriptures do say women are less intelligent, and I have good reasons to accept it, since these same books say so many other things that make perfect sense. The question is not IF what the books say is true, but HOW it is true.

Women's 'lesser intelligence' does not mean women are mentally slow or stupid. Rather, it seems that women's intelligence, buddhi (buddhi differs significantly from what the Western psychologists call 'intelligence'), is different than the man's, and for certain purposes, like making independent decisions, it is indeed less suited.

Q: Men are generally the dispensers of spiritual knowledge. Is it not so?

A: Both men and women can be dispensers of spiritual knowledge. Men's teaching may be more public, at least in the ancient times. The ancient women would teach their children, they would not run schools and give public lectures (there are exceptions, though). These two kinds of teaching are equally important. But this issue is anyway irrelevant to the modern times. Let me end with a quote from A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:

"In human society all over the world there are millions and billions of men and women, and almost all of them are less intelligent because they have very little knowledge of the spirit soul." (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.1, purport)

- "less intelligent": SB 3.25.30, 4.4.3, 7.7.16 (SB 4.26.16: wife as "intelligence of man")

- "nine times more lusty than men": SB 3.23.44p.

- position in the Vedic and modern society:

Suhotra Prabhu:

Dharma-sastras (rules for varnas and asramas) in karma-kanda section of the Vedas define the position of woman on the basis of bodily identity (weaker body, emotions, intellect) and therefore order her protection. Modern critics could not present anything better than varnasrama. They are just barbarians who know only one social principle - sense gratification (kama). Key factors of varnasrama are guna (natural qualities), karma (tendency to certain activity and its reactions) and dharma (God-given goal). These factors are completely misunderstood and ignored in modern society. Women in varnasrama are not lower than men - both are bound by sastric prescriptions. Man serves his guru with the same care as woman serves her husband. Man must also serve woman in many ways. Men are not "higher" according to the Vedas, they only serve in a different way. Everything is transcended by pure love of Krsna.

- yajna performance by:

Krsna Ksetra Das:

To my knowledge, in Vedic smrti-sastra women are excluded from chanting Vedic mantras. But married women ALWAYS take part in Agni-hotra ceremonies in the home as assistants to their husbands. If the wife is not present, the husband cannot perform the ceremony. As for whether a woman in her own right can perform a rite on behalf of others, whether it is expressly forbidden I don't know.

There IS one implication in Bhagavatam that women can do - are supposed to do - the grhastha-asrama nitya homas in place of the husband when he is absent: Kasyapa Muni asks Aditi whether she has failed to do so in his absence, as he tries to deduce what the cause of the inauspicious atmosphere in her asrama is. (SB 8.16.8)

It would be interesting to know if Gangamata Gosvamini, when she initiated disciples, performed the yajna herself.

As for "why" ladies in ISKCON don't wear yajna-pavita, I would say because we are following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and our own Founder-Acarya in this matter. One might argue that what they did was in consideration of local Indian traditions or customs, not sanatana principles. But I don't think we can say this of Srila Prabhupada, who was fully aware of Western cultural considerations and could have changed this if he wanted to.

If I may venture a speculation: Women generally become mothers, which means taking care of their children by breast-feeding, an activity by which the yajno-pavitra would become contaminated (much as when one, mistakenly, wraps the thread around the thumb when performing acamana) and thus would need to be replaced constantly.

I suspect there are some (Vedic) technical reasons why women do not perform yajna. It seems that if the wrong person does a yajna, though perhaps qualified in terms of brahminical principles and abilities, the result can be ineffectual or undesirable. King Dasaratha was very concerned to get the right priest (Rsyasrnga) to perform his yajna for having a son. The wrong priest could mean the wrong result. From personal experience: I was once asked, as a brahmacari, to perform a vivaha-yajna for a godbrother and godsister. The marriage lasted all of two months! (Though I sincerely wished the couple well).

Bhanu Swami:

Gangamata Gosvamini didn't perform yajna. No one in Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya did yajna for initiations. They just gave out mantras without much fanfare. There is pancaratric ceremony including yajna for Vaisnava initiation, but the origins of the yajna we perform seem to come solely from the custom set up by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to give upanayanam Vedic samskara after giving Vaisnava mantras.

I suppose women did not do yajna for the same reason they didn't do Deity worship: impurity.

Blood transfusion, Blood and Organ Donation

Guest (2): Are blood transfusions permissible, Swami?

Paramahamsa: He says, "Are blood transfusions permissible?" When one is in an accident or cut and he loses blood, they take another man's blood and put it it. He says...

Prabhupada: Well, that is not bad. Because if one life is saved by transfusion admission... He is not dying. He is living. He is contributing his blood. So if he is contributing, you are saving some life, there is no harm. (Room Conversation with Alcohol and Drug Hospital People -- May 16, 1975, Perth)

Q: What were Srila Prabhupada's views on organ/blood donation?

Tattva-sandarbha das: I read recently that the doctors determine death as the stopping of the brainwaves. Since they can only use fresh organs, they cut them out when peoples hearts are still beating, but there are no more waves in the brain. Very often it happens that the "dead" suddenly rise or move their hands and legs while being cut to pieces. It is explained that these movements are simply some nerves which are reacting. This is not from a weird country or a future thriller movie, but daily life in Europe's and America's hospitals. After this I got highly doubtful, to say the least, to donate my organs.

Pandava Vijaya das: From my understanding it is ok to donate to devotees but not to nondevotees to continue their nonsense.

Vijaya-venugopala das: On the other hand, we are all nondevotees who, by the causeless mercy of the previous acaryas are trying to become devotees. If we needed an organ before we came to KC, and had been denied this by a devotee, we may have lost our lives, and our rare opportunity to go back home, back to Godhead.

Compassion for all living entities could be another angle of vision on this issue.

Bhagavata-purana das: Neither we know what we'll be doing in five or ten years. Who is a devotee? Those who dress dhoti-kurta-tilak right now? Those who dressed that way ten years ago?...

Nayana-ranjana das: Pandava Vijaya Prabhu mentioned that organ donation should be done for a devotee. Surely this is better because by donating the organ the devotee may reduce his or her life span in KC and increase the life span of another devotee in KC. Which is somewhat okay. What is use of reducing our life-span in KC (for preaching, etc.) for increasing the life-span of a karmi who will use the opportunity to commit more sinful activities? This cannot be accepted as compassion.

I personally am not in favor of organ donation unless the devotee who donates his or her organ is very very advanced and his own devotional service will in no way be effected by the loss of that organ. Vasudev (associate of Lord Caitanya) used to pick up the worms and put them back on the sores of his body and would feel joyful due to his extraordinary compassion on other living entities. And the pain would not affect his devotional service. If we imitate Vasudev we may die or forget completely about Krsna due to the pain.

Yadu did not trade his youth with the old age of his father because he thought that it would be detrimental to his devotional service. So in an emotional decision if a devotee donates his or her organ and then finds out that without that organ his or her service, preaching, chanting is being impaired, then only he is to blame for this. Because by donating the organ he can save one other devotee but if the organ is there and he is in sound health he can vigorously preach and save millions of others.

"But as devotees of Krsna, being engaged in the practical work of spreading Krsna consciousness, that is already the highest realization. That's all right, that is our real mission, to deliver the world by preaching Krsna's message to others, but even higher realization, the highest realization, is to save oneself. (Letter to: Ramesvara, India, 9 January, 1973)

Of course donating for the spiritual master is a completely different issue. One should be ready to give up one's life for the guru what to speak of donating an organ.

These are just my personal thoughts and may be wrong.

Q (Tarini Radha devi dasi): Donating blood only improves our health, I have heard. So can we do that?

C (Damana Krishna das): My uncle is a medical doctor and he said that this is just an propaganda to get somebody to donate blood. Guess who would give blood if they would say it is bad? In fact he said it is not healthy. In Ayurveda I read this is used to reduce pitta, but what if you have other problems?

C (Madhusudani Radha devi dasi): Could you please provide some reference, before making such a claim? None of my medical colleagues have heard of such data.

Before telling people not to donate, I think we need to think long and hard about what we ourselves would do if we required a blood transfusion (during surgery, childbirth, after a car accident, etc.). Would we refuse a transfusion? If not, it's hypocritical and stingy to say we shouldn't donate.

Receiving blood, on the other hand, is not always safe, especially in India, where the blood is not consistently tested for HIV. So before you travel there (if you are not against receiving transfusions), it's a good idea to know your blood type as well as the blood type of other devotees traveling with you. That would allow you to donate to each other (often referred to as "directed donations"). Otherwise you have no idea about the condition of the blood you're receiving.

Kaviraj (Ayurvedic doctor) Partap Chauhan: Rakta Moksana (blood letting) is one of the five procedures in the Panca Karma. The other are: Vamana (use to emetics to cleanse particularly the kapha by vomiting), Virecana (use of laxatives), Basti (use of medicated enemas), Nasya (use of specific medicines through nose).

In each of the above treatments there is a specific Ayurvedic medicine involved which is responsible for the cleansing. There are number of such cleansing medicines used for each of the treatments, for example, 600 types of emitic formulas (those used for vamana) are mentioned in Caraka Samhita. Choosing a proper formula, its proper dose to be administered (according to the age, gender and strength of the patient), the effects and complications that can occur and how to control them should be well known before using these Panca Karma treatments.

Related:
Ugra Karma: End of Life Ethical Considerations

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