Needs of Hindu Patients in U.K.- Talk by London Swaminathan -Part 1 (Post No.3847)

Written by London swaminathan

Date: 24 APRIL 2017

Time uploaded in London:- 10-16 am

Post No. 3847

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.



I was invited to deliver a 20-minute talk on the “Needs of the Hindu Patients in the United Kingdom” on 23rd April at the Health Care Chaplains Training Course held in Swaminarayan temple, London.


Here is a summary of my talk:

“Let me begin with a story. A terminally sick patient was admitted to hospital with serious illness. Doctors told him that his days were numbered. From that minute, he started praying to God piously and intensely and he was lucky to have the Darshan of God. God asked him what he would like to get as a boon. He told God: I am eighty years old now. Doctors say that I would not live for long. I would like to live up to 100 years. God said, “Granted”. He was immensely happy.

Next day, the doctors came to see him in their usual ward round. They reminded him about his condition and told him that they may prescribe some pain reliving medicines because he is going to die soon. He said to the doctors: “Get out; I will look after myself.” Then came the nurses with the medicines prescribed by the doctors (whether the patient wants or not, they write in his case file, please give him XYZ tablets or capsules at this time). The patient said the same to the nurses. Then came the Hindu (priest) chaplain. He told the patient, “ I heard the bad news about your health condition. Don’t worry, I will pray for you”. The patient said the same thing to him. Unfortunately, the patient died within a few days. His soul was angry. When it went to heaven it challenged the God. How dare you finished my life so soon, after promising me 20 more years of life. God smiled at him and said, I sent the doctor, the nurse and the chaplain to help you to prolong your life up to 100 years. You drove them out saying that you would take care of yourself”. Then he realised the mistake of rejecting God’s messengers.



This is to illustrate that there are three key persons in a hospital to look after the needs of the patients. We, chaplains , are one of the links in the chain. We should not over step our limits. our role is to look after the spiritual needs of the patients. Doctors and nurses would take care of the physical needs of the patients. The patient must also understand it.


To illustrate the same point I will briefly tell you the story told by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. A disciple wanted to learn the highest truth. Then the Guru taught him the great mantras ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ (I am God), ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (You are That), ‘Soham’ (I am That). He was very happy and went out of the ashram after several years. On that day, a mad elephant was running amuck through the streets. The mahout was shouting to everyone to run for their lives. This person stood just in front of the mad elephant and said, I am Brahman/God; elephant is also a Brahman; why should I run away? The elephant lifted him and dashed him on the ground and went its way. The severely injured disciple met his Guru after several months of treatment. He was angry and shouted at his Guru: How dare you gave me the wrong mantra. Because of you I was hospitalised for several months.


Guru smiled at him and asked him to narrate the full story without omitting a single bit. He did the same. Guru told him, “my dear friend. You have correctly identified the Brahman in the elephant. But there was another Brahman sitting on the elephant and asked you to run for life. Why didn’t you listen to that Brahman/god?” The disciple learnt his lesson.



We must understand our role. The patient also must understand who we are. He must follow what the medical personnel tell him to do to cure his disease. We are not doctors.


Let me get to the points now.


Why do the patients need a chaplain?

The chaplaincy is a new concept for the Hindus. We don’t have Hospital chaplains, Prison chaplains, University Chaplains, Army/Navy/Air Force chaplains in those days. Now we have chaplains employed in all these places. The patients need us to get some moral support. A consultant was admitted to hospital in coma stage. His wife was also a consultant. But they wanted to meet the priest (Hindu Chaplain). My friend Kalyanji, who was the chaplain in the hospital was surprised to know that the patient and his wife were doctors and yet they wanted to see the chaplain. Kalyanji slowly came to know their background and he gave them a picture of Vishnu and they saw it as an auspicious sign. Priest also comforted them with soothing words. She wanted to consult some astrologer to know whether her husband would come out the coma stage and work again as a consultant/ doctor. Though it was not a chaplain’s area, still Kalyanji (chaplain) helped them to get good, positive advice from an astrologer. The fear in them and the faith in God only made them to seek the help of the priest. Fortunately, her husband was completely cured and started working as a consultant (doctor).

This is one example to show even educated people need the help of a chaplain, when they were confused and confounded.


Patient who can’t speak

Once the staff approached our chaplain for help because they were not able to communicate with the patient, who had a throat infection and could not say yes or no to any question. (Body gestures like shaking the head left to right or up and down have different meanings in different cultures). The Hindu chaplain went and prayed by reciting some hymns. At the end of the session he wrote ‘Thank you’ on a sheet of paper and showed it to the chaplain. From that minute on wards the medical personnel used written communication with the patient. Very simple matter; but it did not dawn upon the minds of the staff. Priest/chaplain opened the gates of communication!


To Bury or To Cremate


Once a one year old Sri Lankan Tamil child died in the hospital; The parents were upset and could not take any decision about the disposal of the body. They have to say whether they agree to post-mortem, burial or cremation by the hospital or do it on their own. They consulted me to find out what the Hindu scriptures say about it. I told them that any child under three is buried not cremated according to Hindu customs. But I advised them to consult the elders in his family. The child’s father rang his parents in Sri Lanka and decided to bury the child. When someone is desperate or sad, even the normal faculties of the body are shut. The chaplain can help them to get balance of mind.


to be continued……………………