March 1, 2000 VNN5589 Related VNN StoriesComment on this story
Balavanta's Forensic Investigation
USA, Mar 1 (VNN) VNN has obtained the following letter:
February 12, 2000
His Holiness Bir Krishna das Goswami
Chairman Governing Body Commision
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
P.O. Box 897
Hillsborough, N.C. 27278
Re: Forensic Investigation
Dear Bir Krishna Maharaj:
On September 23, 1997, you wrote as Vice Chairman of the Governing Body Commission and representative of the its Executive Committee. Your concern was that some members of the society had raised questions about recorded statements of His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada which they believed indicated that he may have been given poison. You asked that I conduct a forensic investigation. We agreed that Srila Prabhupada's life was under the control of the divine energy in all respects and thus not subject to material considerations especially in regard to his presence or departure from this world. Nonetheless, you and others felt that an investigation into various pieces of material evidence related to his departure would be prudent under the circumstances. I agreed to assist the GBC in that regard.
The investigation is not complete.
On November 8, 1977, Srila Prabhupada commented that "Someone has said that I have been given poison." Who said? "They say; they all say". He was pressed later and responded, "Not said, but that I have the symptoms of one who has been poisoned."
I obtained from the Prabhupada Museum in Vridavan a metal canister containing three glass vials sealed with corks and labeled "Last Medicine Taken by Srila Prabhupada." I sent these items to the National Medical Services Laboratory in Pennsylvania for analysis. The report indicated that they were clear of strychnine and cyanide. The lab found environmental levels of boron, aluminum, manganese, and lead which was considered normal.
There was a slightly higher level of mercury, however. I consulted with Bhagavat das who is familiar with Ayurvedic medications, and he informed me that mercury would normally have been used in some of the medications which Srila Prabhupada was administered. (The NMSL report is attached as Exhibit A) I have not been able to investigate this further.
I also received a hair clipper from the Museum which I sent to Dr. Steven Morris of the University of Missouri. Dr. Morris operates one of the world's most advanced technologies for microscopic analysis and is himself an authority on the subject. Having obtained a hair embedded on the movable cutter of the clipper, he subjected it to analysis. He found arsenic in the hair in the amount of 2.6 parts per million which he considered to be twenty (20) times greater than would be expected in an average person living in the United States. (Dr. Morris's report is attached as exhibit B)
I obtained additional samples of Srila Prabhupada's hair to submit to Dr.
Morris for analysis. He was prepared to perform these tests when he was contacted by a Mr. Hooper from Australia who indicated that he was also working on the investigation. Mr. Hooper was not working with me and I do not know him or his role in your investigation. Following this contact, Dr.
Morris decided to assess a substantial charge for his continuing efforts. I contacted you to ask for the funds to complete the study, but they have not been forthcoming.
Richard Callery, M.D., the medical examiner for the State of Delaware, stated that the amount of arsenic found in Srila Prabhupada's hair would not have been lethal in itself. However, if administered over a duration of time or to a person already in frail health, this dosage could have been significant. He commented that a single exposure producing the indicated levels may not have produced specific symptoms although intermittent instances of exposure would likely have caused some level of gastric disturbance. (Dr. Callary's report is attached as exhibit C)
The amount of arsenic found in Srila Prabhupada's hair is also consistent with environmental exposure. In 1978, governmental authorities discovered that the well water in areas of Bengal including Sridam Mayapur has been subject to arsenic intrusion. Srila Prabhupada had been in Mayapur in 1977 for a period of time. I obtained water samples from the current wells in Mayapur and Vrindavan and subjected them to analysis in the United States.
The water in Vrindavan did not contain appreciable levels of arsenic. Srila Prabhupada's Mayapur well (from the second floor kitchen in the original building) also did not contain appreciable levels of arsenic. The well by the gate in Mayapur (not used for drinking) did, however, contain arsenic contamination. (These reports are attached as composite exhibit D)
Some questions are currently unanswered in this regard. What length of exposure would produce the levels obtained? What amounts? How long would arsenic remain in the body following exposure? May a well be clear at one time and contaminated at another?
To reconstruct Srila Prabhupada's medical history, I compiled a chronology of events which is attached as exhibit F. An attorney in London attempted to obtain Srila Prabhupada's medical records from Peace Memorial Hospital (now Watford General) where he was seen and treated in mid 1977. However, the hospital routinely destroyed all records from this time period, and they are, therefore, no longer available. (The report in this regard is attached as exhibit F)
I do not have, by the time of this writing, a professional diagnosis of Srila Prabhupada's condition based upon his medical history. I have seen one prepared for another investigator as well as a statement attributed to a physician who was said to have seen Srila Prabhupada in London. I cannot comment on these reports as I have not studied them in detail although generally they do not appear to be unreasonable.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the investigation thus far has been the analysis of whispers from tapes of Srila Prabhupada's beside in 1977. Dr. J.P. French of York, UK, an internationally recognized recording analyst studied some of the sections of the tapes. He reported that, in his opinion, the first phrase stated "(its going), its going down." He thought the second was "its not poison ... ". He considered the third to be unintelligible. Dr. French's report is attached as exhibit G.
Jack Mitchell of Albuquerque, New Mexico was contacted by other persons interested in the investigation. Mr. Mitchell's report has already been circulated. Although I do not know Mr. Mitchell, I have no reason to believe that he is anything other than a competent and professional individual.
In general, the content of the whispers on the tapes is not clearly identifiable. Much is left to the ear of the listener. Although the above authorities have offered opinions as to what the voices likely say, doubt remains as to what they actually say. In other words we have not yet reached and may never reach a level of certainty as to content of the whispers. To a large degree this is inherent in the nature of a whisper; the very act of whispering involves a concealing of the substance if not the existence of the communication. Perhaps future technology will be of some benefit in this regard.
I have not been able to study in detail the issue of Vedic medications which were given to Srila Prabhupada. I did, however, informally interview Dr. Norottma Lal who attended Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavan. He informed me that there should be no arsenic in Makaradhwaj. He also stated that in his opinion, Srila Prabhupada had symptoms of liver damage. This, he thought, could lead to kidney damage and could also be responsible for swelling.
The investigation is not complete. For example, Dr. Morris has additional hair samples to analyze. The diagnosis by history has not been accomplished. Additional areas of study can be considered.
There can be no doubt that Srila Prabhupada was and always will be the transparent, transcendental via media to spiritual reality. As such he can never be harmed by anyone anymore than Krishna, Himself, can be harmed by anyone. Sometimes Lord Krishna takes the form of the archa vigraha, but even in this form He cannot be harmed by any material thing. Similarly, although Srila Prabhupada appears in this material world, he cannot be harmed by anything in it. Like Arjuna, he is always under the Lord's protection. Nonetheless, because the issue has arisen relative to his earthly pastimes and may be significant to the management of his mission, I recommend that the GBC now work toward the resolution of this matter with a view toward reaching a just and objective conclusion.
Your eternal servant,
See the attachments referred to in this document:
(see also VNN Story 5599)
(see also VNN Story 5605)
(see also VNN Story 5619)
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