Let’s Talk – Organ Donation

One of the most gratifying aspects of hospital chaplaincy is being able to witness how families come together in support of their loved one’s wishes – even if it means going against what they would have wanted for their loved one.

Organ donation is a major, albeit sensitive, topic in a hospital setting. Generally, it has not been a major topic of conversations among families and friends since frankly, it isn’t exactly a fun talk. As a hospital chaplain, I get a chance to walk through with patients and families after they have made a decision to donate organs. The entire process is so profound. Receiving feedback on how many people were helped through donation is even more gratifying, especially for those loved ones left behind.

So what does Hinduism have to say about organ donation? Hindus agree that the body is the temporary carrier for the soul and the soul is a priority. Thus, the attachment to the human body is to be negligible, especially at the time of death. With this belief process, the willingness to donate organs is more understandable. Having said that, the ultimate decision is made by the individual and/or their next of kin. Since Hinduism is such an open source faith tradition, Hinduism Today  has some articles that briefly touch upon different perspectives on organ donation.

There is a lot of work ongoing to promote awareness regarding the need for more organ donors, especially those of Asian, South Asian origin. There is a dire need both here in the USA as well as India. There are some fantastic informercials that are being aired and circulated both on television and on social media. Here’s a link to one from Fortis Healthcare:

 

If possible, please agree to donate.

Until next time,

Namaste

Who am I? Not the body, because it is decaying; not the mind, because the brain will decay with the body; not the personality, nor the emotions, for these also will vanish with death. ~ Ramana Maharshi

Taking A Stand For Dharma And The Need For The Rise of Arjuna(s)

One of the best times of year for me as I’ve mentioned before is the month of Shravan. The entire month is filled with daily devotions entwined with deep significance. Then there’s Rakshabandhan and Janmashtami that fall during the month of Shravan as well.

This Janmashtami, like most years, we went to the local Hindu temple and joined the rest of the community in devotional chants as we awaited the birth of Krishna. There is so much beauty in chanting together with everyone. There are so many emotions as one loses oneself in the rhythm of the tabla and the words of the bhajan. The tempo keeps rising and the prayer hall is filled with a multitude of tones all unified in the chant – as the clock struck midnight – Nand Gher Aanand Bhayo, Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki. My eyes teared up with emotion and suddenly, my mind began to recite the following verse:

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत । अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥४-७॥

Whenever a decrease of righteousness [Dharma] exists, Arjuna, And there is a rising up of unrighteousness [Adharma] , Then I manifest Myself.

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् । धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥४-८॥

For the protection of the good and the destruction of evildoers, For the sake of establishing righteousness [Dharma] , I am born in every age.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Verses: 7-8

My mind fresh with the news of latest atrocities over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I found myself saying out loud, “Yes, Krishna – this is the time to manifest. We need you now more than ever. There’s so much discrimination and hate right now – we need you now.” And just as I finished saying it, a response in my mind answered, “Then, Uttishtha, Arjuna. I am here. Rise now, and carry forward Dharma.” [For a fabulous explanation of what Dharma means, please refer to this video and listen to it in its entirety. Please!]

I was now seriously freaked out. What was happening? Why was my mind playing these games with me? WHO is talking inside my head? I thought I am really truly exhausted physically and this inner conversation was proof I needed to get some rest. But I could not shake off the feeling. I could not deny the truth, the fact I was being asked to face now – Stand up, Shama. Take a public stand against discrimination, racism, hatred and bigotry. Stand up, as Dharma would expect you to do.

Those near to me and the ones I engage with in real life already know my stand on hatred and bigotry. But I realize that I represent much more than myself. It is time to take a stand as being Dharmic, to take a stand for nonviolence, acceptance, compassion, pluralism and respect for everyone and everything. Always.

So why now? The answer came : Why not now?

Why me?  The answer came : Why not me?

Sri Krishna says in the Gita, as referenced above, that He manifests Himself. In the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna could have easily said, “Alright, everyone. Here, Arjuna, hold the reigns of the horses, manage the chariot. I got this!” But that is not what happens. Had Sri Krishna wanted to do so, could He not have easily managed to? If He did, how would we learn what it means to follow and uphold Dharma?

What does Sri Krishna do instead? He talks to Arjuna, shows him the path to follow Dharma, to uphold Dharma. Yes, Sri Krishna manifests, but not to fight the battles for you. Instead He is the underlying, constant, uplifting, guiding Presence that nudges you forward. Uttishtha, Arjuna – Go ahead, you’ve got this. Follow Dharma. You’ve got this.

So that night at the temple when I ‘heard’ Uttishtha, Arjuna – it was for me and all the Arjunas today. Rise. The World needs you to step up and rise. I am claiming this now once and for always. As a Hindu woman of Indian origin, I stand with all people of color, for all indigenous peoples, for all those who feel that they have no voice, for all species. I stand FOR nonviolence, acceptance, compassion, pluralism and respect for everyone and everything. Always.

Until next time,

Namaste

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~ Rev. Desmond Tutu

Therapeutic Music – A Gentle Reminder

Those who know me personally are very well aware of my love for music. I inherited this love from my parents. Growing up, I had the honor to spend a few years learning Hindustani Classical music – the tabla, the shehnai, the santoor and the sitar – all these instruments and more hold a very special place in my heart.

To me, music has always been therapeutic. I have turned to music in personal moments of deepest despair as well as overflowing joy. My favorite genres continue to be folk music, Hindustani classical music, Hindi music and so on. Ever since I started working at the hospital, I got to experience a new dimension of music that is played in the background for those, but not limited to,  near end of life with the intention of having a calming effect. This explanation is very basic.

There are many sites that go into a lot of detail about music therapy and therapeutic music.The following definition is from the site MusicTherapy.org, 

“Therapeutic music is music that helps the process of healing and supports movement towards health. The World Health Organization defines health as: “…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Therapeutic music supports health and the process of healing primarily through the principles of resonance and entrainment, in which the individual is supported by the elements of music: rhythm, harmony, melody and tonal color.”

I’ve experienced the wonders music creates in multiple patients and family encounters. It got extremely personal when my grandfather was in critical care recently. I was sitting in the patient room with my grandmother who was completely stressed out with granddad’s hospitalization. We sat in silence for most of the time except for the constant beeping of machines – something that I’ve gotten used to through working at the hospital. Suddenly, my grandma remarked, “Shama, where is that music coming from?” I turned around to notice the TV was on in the room and was playing calming therapeutic music. After I explained the source and the purpose, she smiled and said, “That’s such a wonderful thing to do.”

I was amazed at how, despite of the stress on her mind, my grandma noticed the soft music in the background and how it brought a smile to her face. In that moment, I felt that something beyond what I could see or hear was manifesting. I will never forget that moment. Maybe that is why I am writing about it –  I do not want to forget that moment.

Music has an ethereal quality about it. I feel bad that I am not able to play any instrument well enough. Maybe I’ll add that to my bucket list.

Until next time,

Namaste

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997

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