This evening I spoke with Mother Kaulini on the phone. She is in Upstate New York, staying in Saci Suta’s swami barn with Mother Swarga, who is looking after her. As many know, Mother Kaulini was pretty incapacitated after cooking for the last Romapada Swami retreat. Attendance was around 30, so Mother Kaulini didn’t think it would be a problem taking on 3 meals a day for the weekend all by herself. When I think of Mother Kaulini, I think of a gopi with an incredible capacity for service. She is more than my role model, she is my istha-deva…in a complicated, motherly kind of way. But still, her physical body is subject to the limitations of material energy and this exertion really pushed her to her limit.
After getting mis-diagnosed as having a Lyme’s disease relapse and also a diagnosis for arthritis, Mother Kaulini was put on pregnesone. By the time Govardhana Puja rolled around, Mother Kaulini had moved into Mother Swarga and Mother Vegavati’s place since she was unable to care for herself. She could not walk and her eyesight was extremely blurry. Saci-suta Prabhu attended the GN festival and took her back home with him so that she could get better medical care.
Two days after Govardhana Puja she couldn’t even lift her head. Her eyesight was pretty non-existent. She was taken to the hospital and her blood sugar was at 1000. My husband said that 400 is considered high. She was admitted to the ICU and diagnosed as diabetic.
When Mother Kaulini was telling me this tonite she said, “If I had stayed at Gita Nagari I would have died.” This really disturbed me since Mother Kaulini has dedicated her life to the farm, but I understood what she meant. The facility just isn’t there. The doctors, shopping…everything is far and an endeavor to get to.
In the ICU Mother Kaulini’s nurse was a man who had just recently attended Gaura Vani Prabhu’s kirtan and yoga retreat at Keli’s studio. She felt really blessed by Krishna to have such a special nurse taking care of her.
The day after Mother Kaulini was released from the ICU (I assume she was in a step-down unit) she was in her hospital bed chanting like a madman. An Indian bodied man came to take blood. Mother Kaulini was struck by his features; she said he was very beautiful, like the boys who do the lila performances in Braja. She was furiously chanting and he started chanting, too. Only he was singing–the standard Prabhupada tune–but with a different mantra.
“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
When Mother Kaulini heard this, she got very angry at him. Anyone who knows Mother Kaulini knows that anger is not in her usual repertoire of emotions. But she started chastising him heavily, “No! That is not the mantra! You have to chant properly…like this!” And she recited the maha-mantra to him.
But the sweetness of his voice, which also reminded her of the lila actors of Vrindavan, soothed her anger and she said, “Okay, you can chant your mantra and I will chant my mantra. The maha-mantra.” So like this he was taking her blood and back and forth they would take turns chanting. This is the Mother Kaulini I know. Strict with herself and lenient with others. The very definition of sadhu sanga: encouragement.
Now she is out of the hospital and staying at the swami barn. She is in awe of the facility, which is so nice compared to her humble room and decrepit bathroom back at the farm. I am laughing to myself because I am remembering Kiriti’s words from a while back. “She should be treated as good as a sannyasi.” Well, my dear friend Kiriti, Krishna heard you!
Yesterday she and the devotees from Stuyvesant Falls had an intimate and sweet celebration of Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day. They chanted bhajans in the temple room and brought the Prabhupada Murti right up close to Mother Kaulini so that she could see him (her vision is still a little fuzzy). Then they watched the Prabhupada movies that Vishaka Mataji and Yadubara Prabhu put out. It was a lot of New Vrindavan footage and a lot of (fuzzy) familiar faces. I asked if Mother Taruni was on there and she said no. Then she told me that she just spoke with Mother Taruni and that Mother Taruni said that when she saw Mother Kaulini at Govardhana Puja she thought Krishna was going to take her soon.
This is the kind of stuff I am having a hard time, personally, hearing. Mother Kaulini told me this, I think, to say that she is doing so much better now. But it makes me feel awful for leaving Gita Nagari. Just awful. And foolish. And like a horrible person. Not like me being there would have prevented any of this. Not like my life was such towards the end that I had time for anything more than driving my kids back and forth to State College and cooking dinner, but still. When I moved there I really wanted to do service with and for Mother Kaulini. Sometimes the situation was frustrating, because she sees things completely from a spiritual perspective and I am a gross materialist in comparison. But still, I was well situated in her association. I was fortunate.
I told Mother Kaulini I will call her. Every day. I realize, especially after Mother Taruni’s comment, how I need to take advantage of whatever association I can get from this advanced devotee who allows me to be her friend. I wish there was some service I could offer her, but I am so far away and so engrossed in life with kids and husband and house and stray cats. Like most things in life, this isn’t how I feel it should be.