Addiction had become a way of life for Premanidhi. It started innocently enough by taking prescription pain medicine for a foot injury. But soon the addiction devoured him. Whatever freedom of choice that once existed, was long gone. He tried drug programs. His relatives tried to help. His friends tried their best. But nothing seemed to help. Lower and lower he fell into a downward spiral until his whole life was in a shambles.
He so desperately wanted a connection with something higher, wanted to escape the emptiness in his life. Then miraculously the Lord’s Holy Name came to him. Through the association of one of Krishna’s devotees, he heard about chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. He started chanting the Lord’s Holy Names and right away he felt his life starting to change. In his own words: “It seemed when I started calling out to Krishna, Krishna started coming towards me right away.” Finally there was some relief and hope!
His sincere efforts in spiritual life brought more good fortune to him. Hearing about the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in Soquel, he felt compelled to come here. He felt that Krishna was guiding him now, giving him a second chance. He didn’t want to lose this opportunity!
Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj explains this process of spiritual awakening in his book Subjective Evolution of Consciousness: “The spiritual name is sraddha, or faith. That is the developed state of sukriti or spiritual merit. When our faith is developed, it leads us to sadhu sanga, the association of saints. The agents of the divine world … come to establish some connection with reality in our soul. That is the deepest connection. The connection with saints produces faith, and faith can see reality.”
Here at the Seva Ashram he had the association of spiritually minded people. This encouraged him to improve himself and he soon gave up his many bad habits. But the demons of his addiction fought back! He became disorientated and confused. This was a shock to his body and mind that had for so long depended on these drugs just to get him through the day. But the devotees, seeing his sincerity, affectionately encouraged him. They gave him shelter, prasadam and friendship. The rest was up to him.
Learning and realizing more and more, he understood that he needed the connection with a spiritual guide. Feeling very unqualified, he humbly asked for initiation from Srila Janardan Maharaj, the president-acharya at our Seva Ashram. Srila Janardan Maharaj reciprocating with his sincerity gave him that spiritual connection with the Holy Names of Krishna.
But there were more difficulties to come. The reactions to the drugs sometimes made him angry and confused. Even though he felt some strength and determination come from chanting the Holy Names of Krishna, the reactions still caused him difficulties. But with sincere humility, he apologized to the devotees each time that he caused a disturbance. And each time the devotees forgave him and showered him with more affection.
Looking back now, it all seems like a bad dream. The effects of the drugs are gone. Premanidhi Prabhu has turned his whole life around. He is happy and hopeful. He lives near the Ashram with his wife and new child and he has his service connection that brings him to the Ashram almost every day. He chants his rounds daily, does some simple worship at home and donates time and money to the service of the Ashram.
Recently Srila Janardan Maharaj and myself were at the reception after Premanidhi & Sushila’s wedding when Premanidhi’s brother came up to us. He introduced himself and then struggling to hold back his emotions, he said: “I just want to thank you for saving my brother’s life!”
This affectionate encouragement in spiritual life was one of the defining qualities of the founder of our Seva Ashram, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj. We are trying as best we can to continue his mood and we invite everyone to come and be part of this life of service in association with Krishna’s devotees.
This is a true story. When we asked Premanidhi Prabhu how he would feel about us publishing his story, since some things may be confidential, he told us: “If my story can help someone else in their spiritual life, please publish it!” If you have a story of your own spiritual transformation that you would like to share, please email me at Hasyapriya@SevaAshram.org We are happy to share your story anonymously if you prefer.