Fifteen years ago, on the instructions of Parasurama Prabhu, we opened a small preaching centre in a poor area of Brighton. During that time, Brighton was well known as a town with many homeless people, and addiction problems were rife. The centre was very close to a number of hostels. As I had past experiences both as a health and social services worker, and also previous to that as an addict and a rough sleeper, we decided that we wanted to preach to this group. So as well as distributing prasadam and holding programmes with local students, we opened the centre every evening for an hour to serve prasadam to rough sleepers and those with addiction issues.
The maha-mantra would always be playing in the background, normally Tribhuvanatha Prabhu’s CD, and on several occasions, the attendees would stay back after the prasad service to help clean up and to attend an evening programme, where we demonstrated how to chant japa. One man stopped us on the street one day to say he had given up heroin as a result of taking part in one of our japa demonstrations. This was very moving to us.
Anyhow, one of our regular attendees was a chap called Mickey. I am going to call him Bhakta Mickey. Mickey was a 39 year old severe alcoholic, hailing from Ireland. He looked more like 50 years old. He was always very friendly, and often placed his palms together and bowed when he came in to the centre. Eventually we had a chance to speak with him and find out more about him.
It turns out that many years earlier, he had spent some time with Tribhuvanatha Prabhu and his team in Ireland. I believe he may have even spent some time serving Sri Sri Radha Govinda at Inish Rath Island. He would glorify Tribhuvanatha Prabhu in such warm terms. He was particularly fond of Lord Nrisimhadeva, and would speak His name and recount His pastimes every time he visited us.
One evening he came to the centre in a particularly happy and humble mood, although extremely drunk and very ill. Once again he spent his time with us glorifying the Lord and his devotees, but there was some greater urgency about it. No sadness, but deep emotion. We missed him the next evening when he didn’t show up, and the following day, we heard that he had passed away that night after visiting us.
Many of us might consider Bhakta Mickey to be a fallen soul. Perhaps even a bit of a waste of our time. Certainly there was little hope of him ever following the four regulations in his advanced state of addiction. I have thought about him many times over the years, and whilst I have no idea about his background, and can only speculate about him personally, but my experience with mental health and addiction issues would lend me to believe that almost certainly he had gone through an extremely traumatic childhood. It is rare to come across someone with such deeply ingrained drug and alcohol problems who has not been the subject of severe physical, sexual or psychological abuse in childhood.
And so it appears that Lord Nrisimhadeva took mercy upon him, even though he was not able to live up to the brahminical standard, perhaps for reasons that he could not be blamed for. I hope he was able to go directly back to Godhead in this lifetime, but if not, I hope to meet him one day without recognising him, in good health, wearing saffron cloth, and chanting the glories of Lord Nrisimhadeva to each and everyone without discrimination.
Just to mention that because of the work the centre did, the building was given to us to use rent free by the landlord, and also that one very nice bhakta, now by the name Aprakrta dasa, first joined our movement there, attracted by the work we were doing. It so happens that he went on to be the biggest book distributor in the UK for a good period, under the care of the Swansea temple.
Jai Lord Nrisimhadeva!