Sunday, February 6, 2011


(Reuters Life!) - Pope Benedict has a soft spot in his heart for organ donations but his body parts can’t be donated to save lives after he dies, the Vatican says. A doctor in Germany had been using the fact that the pope possessed an organ donors’ card from a medical association to advocate the practice. The Vatican asked him to stop but he did not. To settle the matter, the pope’s secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, sent a letter to the doctor and the missive was reported in the German program of Vatican Radio. “It’s true that the pope owns an organ donor card ... but contrary to public opinion, the card issued back in the 1970s became de facto invalid with Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to the papacy,” Vatican Radio quoted from the letter. In 1999, six years before he was elected to the papacy, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger disclosed that he always carried an organ donor’s card with him and encouraged the practice as “an act of love.”

Vatican officials say that after a pope dies, his body belongs to the entire Church and must be buried intact. Furthermore, if papal organs were donated, they would become relics in other bodies if he were eventually made a saint. Polish Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, head of the Vatican’s health office, told La Repubblica newspaper it was understandable that the Pope’s body remains intact because it belongs to the entire Church. “It is also understandable in view of possible future veneration,” he said, referring to the sainthood process. “This doesn’t take anything away from the validity and the beauty of the gift of organ donation.” In a 2008 speech, the Pope lamented the shortage of organs for transplants, but denounced organ sale as immoral.

People are wondering why the Pope, who has long been a champion of organ transplants, is no longer an organ donor. Until the last century, Papal organs were removed to make embalming more durable and preserved as relics. The reason of all this is very clear in the tradition of India: In the case of a pure devotee, his “sadhaka-deha” or practitioner’s physical body becomes spiritual due to the purity of his life and devotional practice. For this reason when he dies, his body is not burn into ashes - as normally happens when ordinary people die, but it is placed in “samadhi”, or a tomb representing the sadhaka’s entrance into samadhi (trance) and spiritual perfection.

Hari Das Thakur sat in front of Mahaprabhu who was standing in front of him. Then, as the tears flowed from his eyes, he gazed at the Lord’s lotus face and took His lotus feet on his chest and, while chanting the names “Krishna Chaitanya”, voluntarily left his body like Bhishma. The devotees became intoxicated by the kirtan which grew louder and louder, and the Lord lifted Hari Das’s body and started to dance around the courtyard. In the accompaniment of the loud singing of the Holy Names, He and the devotees took Hari Das’s remains to the beach. There they washed the body in the sea and then dug a hole in the sand where they placed it. Mahaprabhu was the first to throw sand into the samadhi. This is how the samadhi ritual of Hari Das Thakur was performed. By virtue of his presence, the seashore became a great place of pilgrimage. Mahaprabhu circumambulated the burial place and then went personally to the Jagannath temple to beg for prasad for a feast in honor of Hari Das.

Śrīla Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Mahārāja :
Golden Saying - “Srila Namacharya Hari Das Thakur”
“The disappearance of Hari Das Thakur”
Published on September 19, 2002

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