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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami > Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service > Physical Illness > My Story

My Story


I would like to share some of my experiences of a prolonged illness. It came as a shock to me when suddenly I could not do my normal duties. At first you do not want to accept it. You keep trying to act normally, but the material nature forces you to the floor and you have to submit. As you lie in your sickbed, you worry that perhaps you are not actually sick. Maybe you are a malingerer. You have heard that most diseases are psychosomatic, and you wonder exactly what that means. Maybe you are not being sincere enough. You try again to get up and disregard your illness, but you are rudely thrown down. After going through this struggle for a while, you accept the fact that you are sincere about wanting to be well. You wish to serve your spiritual master's mission, but the fact is, you cannot do it now. You have to deal with your physical illness and not feel guilty about it. This is a mental problem that comes along with physical disease.


The fear of being seen as a malingerer is related to a social image. You make heroic efforts to act as if you are not ill because you're afraid of what others will think or say about you. Srila Prabhupada said that devotees should be sympathetic, but we cannot expect everyone to be preoccupied with our disease. We have to take care of ourselves. With the aid of close friends, we take to medical treatment and a health regimen. But while we rest in bed, we worry that some devotees are expecting us to be active and they are disappointed in us. Someone may even think that we are "in may a." If anyone inquires from us with an unsympathetic attitude, we have to tolerate this and inform them politely that we are not in maya; we are simply tak­ing care of our illness. This is an extra burden for the ill: to live in a society of people who are active and who cannot always understand and sympa­thize.


The ill person has to accept the fact that he may be losing his popularity. The book distributor who becomes ill is no longer praised daily for his record-breaking feats. People begin to forget about you. You no longer feel the satisfaction that you are doing something worthwhile in Lord Caitanya's mission. Of course, the truth goes deeper than this, and yet a diseased person sometimes suffers disappointments because of these changes in his life. Next comes the humbling realization that you are not that much needed. You may have been a leading preacher, but Krsna will send someone else to do your work. Everything does not collapse just because you are not on the scene. On the one hand it is a solace to learn that your work is being cov­ered by others. But it is also humiliating. You had thought that many people were depending on you, but new people are coming forward and taking your place. Although a few visitors give you flowers, you are not terribly missed. But to dwell on these things is a needless worry that does not help your physical illness.