One of the responsibilities was that you were the temple president of Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan. I just want to get back to this moment in your life because it’s so exceptional in that it doesn’t happen to everyday run-of-the-mill devotee where there is a murder or threat or an intent upon you. How did you cope with that and what are the ramifications of that attack to this day? Do you feel threatened, or do you feel something towards that?
Kadamba Kanana Swami: Anyway, um. First of all, when I became president of Vrindavan there was a difficult situation. Vrindavan is a place which is a spiritual world; it’s transcendental. But then on top of that transcendental place there is another place the world of yoga-maya and illusionary Indian village that is like a covering that hides the spiritual Vrindavan. In this day and age Vrindavan is on the level of covering of Uttar Pradesh which is a bit of a lawless state in India and the district life is like that. There is not much law and order. So it’s always been like that. So there is a bit of a mafia in Vrindavan. Ordinary people don’t deal with such people but when you are the president of a big institution you may get some interaction. I was buying some land for the temple and in the process I once stepped on the toes of some mafia people because they had come to me and wanted to sell some land and I bought it directly from the owner and not them and saved $60,000 dollars, not Australian dollars by the way, but American dollars – that’s a lot of money. So possibly that could have been one motive why something happened.
There could be other reasons – maybe disgruntled devotee; there is always a disgruntled devotee at the temple.
Anyway, one night I went to the bathroom and suddenly as I was in the bathroom – BANG! – from above over the wall. And then I got hit by a bullet. I felt that in slow motion go through me. I fell on the ground. Instinctively I realized not to go unconscious. So I stayed. I knew that if I go unconscious I would bleed to death and they’ll find me tomorrow. So I managed to do some pranayama and dealt with the pains and I stayed conscious. Then I pulled myself up by the door handle and I saw on the right side there was like a ball hanging like as big as a football. Inside there were blood and bits of flesh and so on, bits of stomach, bits of liver and bits of that. So it didn’t look good and I thought to myself, “I may not survive this!” But I thought, “Somehow or other I should get out of this bathroom so that people can find me.” So I did that. But it was very painful. I fell on my knees on the veranda in great pain and the first person who came was a South American and when he asked me what happened I whispered, “Shot!” And he heard, “Shock!? Shock!? You got an electric shock!?” And I could hardly speak. And then he told everyone that I had an electric shock. And I was sitting there, and I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t tell anybody “No, I got shot, and I’m bleeding to death, take me to a hospital.” But I couldn’t speak. So I couldn’t say. So I was just sitting there thinking, “All these people around me looking at me, and they were looking what to do!?” And I was the one usually telling everyone what to do. Now there was no one to tell them what to do. Totally confused. And nobody was making arrangements for me to go to a hospital or anything. I was just sitting there and I thought, “I may really die! I better start thinking about Krishna!” So I was thinking about Krishna, and I prayed to Krishna as good as I could. I was really dizzy. So it was difficult to chant the full maha-mantra; I was so dizzy that I just said, “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Krishna…” And then I prayed to Krishna, I said, “Maybe I can take birth in a guru-kul.” You know, “I’ll take the risk – sometimes – and I’ll come back in Vrindavan.” Ok, well – in the immediate experience there are more details but they are not for here and now.
Do you still have physical repercussions from those injuries?
Kadamba Kanana Swami: Well you know. If you take a shoe and you shoot a bullet through it; it’s not going to be a new shoe. So if you shoot a hole though the body from the back to the front, you’re going to have some problems. But that’s alright. I think that, you know, I was in the hospital… And the police came, the big DIG, you know that’s a big policeman in Indian, personally came – big district head. And he said, “Well, we’ve investigated the case and we really have no evidence. There is nothing we can do. But I can give you this.” And he pulls out his gun and puts it on my bed. And he said, “I can give you this!” Which means, “You take care of it.” Hah hah heh! So I said, “No, that’s ok. You keep that.” He said, “Yeah, I think that may look better for a sadhu, maybe.” Heheh heh hah!
So I really had to think in that hospital. I was thinking of the bull dharma. When dharma’s legs were broken by Kali, Kali was standing there next to the bull with a stick in its hands. And Maharaj Parikshit arrives on the spot and says, “Who did this!?” And the bull says, “It’s hard to say. It’s hard to say who did this. It could be karma. It could be the will of the providence.” So I also was thinking that yeah, I could look at the causes and the ultimate cause is Krishna. Somehow or other Krishna sent me this. I’m trying to be a devotee and Krishna sent me this for my purification, for my growth and I will have to take it like that. I’ll have to take. This is Krishna’s mercy and I have to learn from this. So that is really the most interesting part from the whole story – what was there to learn in this shot?
Sometimes I thought that I should write a little book. In that book I will not write so much about how the conspiracy came about or who did it, who didn’t do it, who are the suspects – and there were several. But I will write more about the internal meaning, you know. What lesson did I learn from it. It would be called, “In One Shot” because in one shot many lessons were there.
First of all, I was on the waiting list for sannyas and preparing for sannyas when this thing happened. And you know, in the Vedic literature it’s said that sannyas means you’re socially dead. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. You know in Indian, when something happens to a person then the police come and they do a jimba, they do a sealing of the room. They seal everything and no one is allowed in. Meanwhile, they go in there and steal everything they can from that room, because they’re the only ones allowed in. And by the time, you know, three months later, they open up and the room is empty, right? Everybody knows this. I also knew this and the devotees also knew this. And there were two places, one my room and other one was office downstairs, and they’re all valuable things. There were safes in both places because I was the president of a large institution. So the devotees were very worried. So what they did is they emptied out everything from my room and from the office. And then it ran all over the place, and then everything disappeared. So I went to the bathroom and I never came back in my old identity. And everything I had disappeared. And it was virtually like my identity died.
And at this stage you left as the temple president?
Kadamba Kanana Swami: I had to. I was a wreck. I was like finished. It took me one and a half year before I could have a conversation like this. Sit in a chair for a long time.
Spiritually, do you think that was an impetus to be more serious about spiritual life? I know you were serious already, but do you think it gave you an even bigger impetus?
There was no other option than to take shelter of Krishna. That was the first thing. The other thing was that I deeply had to think about, “What is it in me that brought these people to do this?” It wasn’t just mafia, there were some devotees from the inside as well involved in the whole thing.
Kadamba Kanana Swami: Uhhum… Of course not a very high caliber, maybe a corrupt type, you know, because in these big projects there are always some people who come for the money. That also happens in India. So I had to deeply think, “What was it that brought this out!?” And well, you know, Dutch people they’re strong natured, they are very determined. It’s a small country that had a very dynamic role in the world. Such a small country that was everywhere doing all kinds of things; there were people in Mauricious and so many places. Very dynamic people. So the culture is like that. Dynamic. Enterprising. Things are a little more clear cut. It’s either a Yes or a No, and nothing in between. In India that doesn’t work so well. In India it’s never a yes or a no. You know. Yes can be no and no can be yes. It’s more fluid. You know. So there was a cultural issue going on. And I could see I am too rigid in my yes and no in my opinions. And I though before Krishna consciousness whatever is reasonable – and you know, a Dutch thing is that we must be reasonable and if a group of people logically speaking thinks that this is right, then you are right and then the other party is wrong. Finished. Reasonable. No more discussion. Finished. You’re wrong. No discussion. But of course people don’t always like that. So I changed. I learned from that that ever if we are in a disagreement, we shouldn’t leave the other side dissatisfied, we should never leave people just dissatisfied. We should somehow or another come a little bit their way. We should work it out. We should meet somewhere on common ground. We should keep that. You cannot separate on just a disagreement. Of course some cultures have that mood, like Spanish culture has that mood – like we should work that out. But the Dutch culture is not. Yes or no, right or wrong. So I made some changes. I made some serious changes.
With those changes you then took on the responsibility to preach around the world many many places…
Kadamba Kanana Swami: Yeah, I think that change was good for what I’m doing now because I became much more sensitive to people and I was more ready to adjust to people’s needs. And now I have to deal with so many people all over the world from all kinds of cultures. I have to get on with all kinds of people that don’t necessarily get on with each other.