Talk about living a nightmare. News services worldwide are reporting this Monday, November 23, 2009 that a Belgian man “though to be in a coma for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time.” Alex Watts of Sky News Online writes, “For the whole time, he was trapped in his own body with no way of letting friends and family know he could hear every word they were saying.”
It gets worse. In an interview with the German magazine Der Speigel the man, Rom Houben, says, "I screamed, but there was nothing to hear. I became a witness to my own suffering as doctors and nurses tried to speak with me until they gave up all hope."
Now, you want to know the most frightening aspect of this story? We are all living the same nightmare! Mr. Houben’s unfortunate saga is a real life illustration of how we, all spirit souls, are trapped in this material body. Actually, our problem is worse, because unlike Mr. Houben, we don’t even want a different life. We are satisfied with stupefying lives of sense enjoyment wherein our existence is compared to bees licking the outside of a jar of honey, never getting the real taste.
I have a devotee friend, Apauruṣeya dās, who is an artist. He told me that one of the first pieces of sculpture he created after beginning to practice Krishna Consciousness was a metal box with a fist violently protruding from the lid of the box. The piece was a poignant portrait of the trapped spirit soul desperately struggling to get out of this mortal frame, struggling to be the whole person that is the soul’s real nature. I can imagine that Mr. Houben must have felt just like that.
The interview in Der Speigel captures Mr. Houben’s emotions thus, “All that time I literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt. I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth. I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy life now people know I am not dead."
There is a verse composed by a Vaisnava poet that resonates with Mr. Houben’s feeling, which speaks of a second birth in this one life and thus offers some hope to all trapped souls.
janame janame sabe pitā-mātā pāya
kṛṣṇa guru nahi mile bhaja hari ei
Srila Prabhupada, who quoted this verse often, explains the spirit soul’s predicament, “the Vaiṣṇava kavi says, 'janame janame sabe pitā-mātā pāya': in every life you'll get father and mother and their protection, kṛṣṇa guru nahi mile bhaja hari ei, but in every life you cannot get Kṛṣṇa and guru [to] take care of [you]. Because unless you get Kṛṣṇa and guru, then you are within the cycle of birth and death. And you get father and mother and their care, that is all right, but kṛṣṇa-guru does not come in that way. That you have to search out. Because Kṛṣṇa, guru will give you the nucleus of devotional life. Kṛṣṇa guru nahi mile bhaja hari ei.”
Fortunately not all the doctors gave up on Mr. Houben, and perhaps more importantly, Mr. Houben did not give up himself. UK’s TimesOnline reports that “Asked how he passed the time for 23 years, he said, “I meditated – I dreamt myself away.”
Neither should we give up on ourselves, thinking the reality of spiritual life unachievable. This human form of life is a chance for our original Krishna consciousness to be discovered, its right under the surface ready to blossom. The guru is always searching for us, ready to use the spiritual techniques of hearing and chanting the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord to revive our consciousness, to give us knowledge and experience of our real life of eternity and bliss, all through the easy process of meditation on the Hare Krishna mantra. Thus, finally we may awake from this nightmare and rejoin our most dear Friend Lord Sri Krishna and His associates in the spiritual world.[ coma ] [ consciousness ] [ soul ]