Someone Has Poisoned Me - Part 9

Srila Prabhupada's Poisoning by Arsenic  Someone Has Poisoned Me
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The Facts About Srila Prabhupada's Poisoning by Arsenic
Part 9 - - Chapter 17 to Chapter 20

"So as Krishna was attempted to be killed... And Lord Jesus Christ was killed.
So they may kill me also." (Srila Prabhupada, May 3, l976, Honolulu)
"my only request is , that at the last stage don't torture me, and put me to death"
(from SPC Vol. 36, November 3, 1977 tape recorded Room Conversation)

Part 9




On his taped memories of Srila Prabhupada, Tamal Krishna Goswami recalls that Srila Prabhupada developed a "cold" in New Vrindaban during His visit there June 22 to July 2, 1976. Tamal states that this cold marked the onset of poor health, which he observed when Srila Prabhupada came to visit New York on July 9. However, Srila Prabhupada first became ill on May 4, 1976 in Hawaii, the day after Tamal arrived there to discuss with Srila Prabhupada the futility of his directive to go to China. By the time Srila Prabhupada was leaving New York on July 20 for Europe and India, Satsvarupa's biography describes:

"Srila Prabhupada's health was worsening, as often happened when he traveled extensively. Particularly in New York his health began to suffer… Senior devotees entreated him to rest awhile before going to England and India. He had spent a very pleasant day at the ISKCON farm in Pennsylvania, and the devotees suggested he go there for two or three months to rest, recover his health, and write."

Satsvarupa recounts that there were daily pleas for Srila Prabhupada to stay, including on the last day in New York."…even as he left his room and got on the elevator, a few men followed, still suggesting he not go… Srila Prabhupada had remained jolly so far, despite his physical weakness, and despite his disciples' pleading…" Srila Prabhupada then said, "I want the benediction to go on fighting for Krishna, just like Arjuna." (Sat:6.208)

Tamal states on a tape recording that Srila Prabhupada"never fully recovered" from His New York illness.(Tamal Krishna Goswami was GBC of New York temple at the time.) Hari Sauri's diary better describes the New York illness than did Satsvarupa's biography. Srila Prabhupada became very ill within hours of leaving New York, remaining ill for the next month in Europe. After recovering from the July-August illness, there were no more serious health problems until January 1977. But by the time Tamal went to Mayapur in February 1977, Srila Prabhupada was even more weak than when he had last seen Him in New York.

From Satsvarupa Goswami's biography we read of vague health problems prior to 1977, such as swelling of the hands and feet, that were aggravated by old age and the rigors of constant travelling and preaching engagements.  Satsvarupa notes that Srila Prabhupada was supposedly mildly diabetic, although there is no available officially rendered diagnosis to this effect. Perhaps this notion comes from the 1967 visit to Bellevue Hospital at the time of Srila Prabhupada's heart attack. He had no significant heart troubles since the attacks of 1965 and 1967. He had the usual colds and occasional bronchitis, and briefly became very ill in Vrindaban in 1974. Srila Prabhupada was very regulated and deliberate in His eating habits to maintain optimum digestion and health. He received massages daily and took regular morning walks for His good health.

In TKG's Diary, Srila Prabhupada's health and medical condition is not clearly defined, except with vague and contradictory so-called diagnoses, such as "internal fever", which makes no sense whatsoever. At the end of Tamal's book, we are left confused as to what illness had befallen Srila Prabhupada. To illustrate the point, see Chapter 42: Parade of Doctors, Treatments, and Mis-Diagnoses. On November 5, 1997, Abhiram Prabhu published a letter on the internet giving a summary of his knowledge and experience as Srila Prabhupada's nurse, but it also is very limited. The diagnosis therein of dropsy is also completely inadequate. Dropsy is a kidney disease, which we will see only partially explains Srila Prabhupada's medical condition.( See Chapters, 18, 32 )

Srila Prabhupada's 1977 medical history is poorly documented and recorded, and though He was seen by a "parade" of allopathic and Ayurvedic physicians, many of their names and most of their treatments are unknown. Satsvarupa's biography is cursory, giving only the briefest health information. In Satsvarupa's and Tamal's accounts, we read of periodic downturns in health and of general symptoms like swelling and no appetite, of various unspecified pills, tonics and of dark sunglasses. Thus the whole matter seems a little mysterious and more than a little frustrating.

Specifically, what was Srila Prabhupada suffering from? Kidney problems? What was the specific disease or ailment, and what was its cause? To study Srila Prabhupada's physical symptoms and thus be able to diagnose His illness, this author has compiled information from all available sources into one synthesized health biography, contained in the following chapters.

We will see that Srila Prabhupada certainly had kidney problems, but also that He clearly had all the signs of chronic arsenic poisoning. The coming chapters will illustrate the difference between kidney disease and arsenic poisoning, and demonstrate that both conditions were present in Srila Prabhupada's body, judging from the symptoms chronicled in a composite and lengthy health history from May 1976 to November 1977.

A review of the health history of Srila Prabhupada in 1977, presented in Chapters 20 through 31, lends the impression of a band-aid approach to health care coupled with a resolute avoidance of any qualified medical attention or evaluation. There was no coherent or intelligent approach to dealing with Srila Prabhupada's health problems. Understandably, Srila Prabhupada would be cautious in dealing with hospitals and doctors, as the Western medical profession can just as easily ruin one's health as well as restore it.  Nevertheless, sufficient funds and contacts were available to procure a wide choice of qualified and cooperative doctors without being subjected to injections and operations. Instead, the horrors and defects of modern medicine were repeatedly described to Srila Prabhupada in what almost seems to be a determined attempt to steer Srila Prabhupada AWAY from any proper medical attention. Why? Was there something to conceal that only modern Western medical techniques could discover?  Tamal was especially emphatic is discouraging the use of doctors and medicines, a fact that can be seen clearly in the Conversations Books but not in TKG's Diary.

It is ironic that 22 years after Srila Prabhupada was repeatedly discouraged by Tamal Krishna from availing Himself of proper medical attention that Tamal himself, through modern medicine, was diagnosed with  advanced prostate cancer.  On January 26, 1999, Tamal employed the best doctors and surgical procedures in a modern Western hospital in the hope of becoming cured. (it seems he was) Why did Tamal not take the advice he gave to Srila Prabhupada, and go to Vrindaban to chant and die out of distrust in Western medicine and doctors? Why the apparent double standard?

At the best, it appears that Srila Prabhupada's caretakers stood by helplessly, perhaps even somewhat uselessly, while Srila Prabhupada withered away due to misunderstood health problems and a series of contradictory mis-diagnoses. It might seem farfetched that the avoidance of modern medicine was deliberate and necessary to prevent detection of the real cause of Srila Prabhupada's declining health, namely poisoning. Yet, that is what this book is about; and such a conclusion may not be so crazy after all. Indeed, very unfortunately, it appears to be all too true.

From the accounts available, Srila Prabhupada was already in a weakened condition on February 26, when the first and very serious attack of 1977 illness occurred. Thereafter, the grave worsening of Srila Prabhupada's health was marked by a series of abrupt, repeated, and sudden downturns, in May, July, September and October, illustrated in a later graph. Each downturn brought increased weakness and inability to eat or digest food.

We can understand that Srila Prabhupada most probably had weak kidneys, but, as we shall see in the health biography, there were physical symptoms not consistent with kidney disease, diabetes or poor digestion, the 3 ailments offered to explain Srila Prabhupada's poor health in His last year.

Abhiram Prabhu, who served Srila Prabhupada as his nurse from  July 25 through October 16, 1977, notes that Prabhupada was actively involved in his own health care. He has said that much to the chagrin of those closely involved, Srila Prabhupada's approach was to accept the help of anyone who came forward with sincere goodwill, apparently accepting that such a person was sent by Krishna for that purpose. Hari Sauri also offers his analysis on this subject in Appendix 21. Nevertheless, it remains clear Srila Prabhupada was serious about restoring His health. This is evidenced by His calling for certain doctors from His past and how He remembered or invented medicines and treatments to use in the pursuit of improved health. He was, though, more inclined towards natural and Ayurvedic procedures and cures.

Throughout 1977, Srila Prabhupada primarily entrusted His health care to His servants, depending on their best judgment and arrangements. Although He would sometimes initiate some action regarding His health, generally Srila Prabhupada abided by the recommendations and decisions of Tamal Krishna, and, to a lesser extent, His other servants and the GBC members. This was especially true later in 1977. The GBC meetings and decisions regarding Srila Prabhupada's health were compliant with Tamal's emphasis on avoidance of doctors and real medical attention.

The summary is that Tamal alone directed to a great degree the course of Srila Prabhupada's health care in 1977. Tamal filtered the news, the letters, the guests. Tamal ruled the situation with a strong hand and he was firmly situated as Srila Prabhupada's guardian, advisor, and personal secretary. Tamal was more or less in control, at least from an external perspective. He had great latitude in charting and steering the course of Srila Prabhupada's health care, travel plans and interaction with the outside world of devotees, guests and doctors.

Aside from the written sources available, further information about Srila Prabhupada's physical symptoms was obtained from the recollections of individual devotees, such as Dristadyumna, Udayananda, Bhagwat, Sura, Pradyumna, and others. Most information was accumulated from the Conversations Books, based on actual tape recordings of Srila Prabhupada. These recorded room conversations provided many details and"the rest of the story" in many incidents poorly or not chronicled by Tamal or Satsvarupa.

Each remedy that was undertaken to restore Srila Prabhupada's health, however, produced no lasting results. Adridharana, in a recorded interview (which was stolen and ended up with the GBC), recalled feeling a mood of frustration with these various and ineffective health care attempts. Some, including Adridharana, had hoped a qualified doctor would be found who would be able to treat Srila Prabhupada consistently until cured. There had already been a parade of various practitioners, (see Chapter 42) some good, some bad, all who came and went, and the treatments and medicines also came and went. Adridharana located and brought the last kaviraja to treat Srila Prabhupada at the end of October 1977.  Despite the stellar qualifications of the last kaviraja, his treatments were ineffective, either because he was too late or he had mis-diagnosed the ailment. It was both.

Why was each new treatment soon discontinued, one after another? Why were there adverse reactions almost EVERY time Srila Prabhupada began a new treatment? The result was the repeated rejection of doctors, medicines and treatments, one after another. Bhavananda and Tamal were "relieved" that Srila Prabhupada decided to die peacefully, without further botheration with "the struggle to live." Could something unknown to us have caused those adverse reactions, besides the various medicines themselves? Or is it an odd coincidence? (see Chapter 40 )

Gradually Srila Prabhupada's health deteriorated and He finally decided to finish his pastimes in this world on November 14, 1977. We now know there was a poisoning of Srila Prabhupada, (see Chapter 33 ) which, of course, occurred only by the sanction of the Supreme Lord.  Srila Prabhupada may or may not have been aware of it earlier than November. (see Appendix 18 ) We know Srila Prabhupada knew that He was being poisoned because He said exactly that a few days before His disappearance.

The final pastimes of Srila Prabhupada have very much of the flavor of Jesus Christ's crucifixion, where the pure devotee willingly accepts the Lord's arrangement without protest. Srila Prabhupada may have known that He was being poisoned throughout 1977, and the absence of His protest or an earlier acknowledgement to this effect can be understood as His surrender to Krishna's plan, while, out of His boundless mercy, still accepting service from those who were His poisoners.

As stated before, the symptoms of Srila Prabhupada's illness in 1977 are recorded in bits and pieces in various publications. The information from all sources was combined into one comprehensive, synthesized health biography by this author in Chapters 20 through 31. This synoptic chronicling provides a sound basis for evaluation and diagnosis of Srila Prabhupada's illness by symptom analysis.

We understand that Srila Prabhupada had weak or problematic  kidneys long before His serious 1977 illness. Did Srila Prabhupada have the symptoms of kidney disease in 1977? Yes. But were there additional symptoms which are not found in kidney disease? Yes, again.  Kidney disease symptoms are described in Chapter 18, and upon examination, we can ascertain quite positively that there was more going on with Srila Prabhupada than simply kidney disease.  Although the symptoms indicate that Srila Prabhupada had kidney problems, there are many symptoms which must be attributed to some other cause, and this book establishes that other cause to be chronic arsenic poisoning.

The same process used to ascertain the correct diagnosis of Srila Prabhupada's illness by examination of physical symptoms is applied to diabetes in Appendix 7. Diabetes symptoms  do NOT match the symptoms that Srila Prabhupada displayed, as there are several diabetes symptoms which Srila Prabhupada positively did not display, such as obesity and excessive hunger. There is definitely some other cause besides diabetes which is producing the kind of symptoms that Srila Prabhupada had. This book shows that cause to be chronic arsenic poisoning.

A complete and summary analysis of symptoms will be made after the health history, in Chapter 32. First, however, we will study the symptoms of kidney disease and arsenic poisoning. In this way, when the reader progresses to the health history in Chapters 20 - 31, he will know what to recognize as attributable to kidney disease, arsenic poisoning, or both.



In studying the various types of kidney disease, it becomes clear that Srila Prabhupada did not display the symptoms of urethritis, cystitis, kidney injury, cysts, tumors, kidney stones, bladder stones, or acute kidney failure. We do see that a general diagnosis of some sort of kidney disease, failure, or malfunction is reasonably synonymous with Srila Prabhupada's symptoms. The types of kidney disease which Srila Prabhupada may have had, judging by His physical symptoms,are as follows:

1. Uremia

2. Pyelo-nephritis

3. Glomerulo-nephritis

4. Chronic kidney failure

5. End-stage kidney failure

(And all of which, it is to be noted, can be caused by arsenic poisoning).


Srila Prabhupada was diagnosed as having dropsy, but this is a very shallow understanding the true nature of His ailment. Dropsy is another name for edema, or the swelling of the body due to kidney malfunctioning. Dropsy is more a symptom than a disease, and, as we shall see from a full examination of Srila Prabhupada's physical symptoms, in no way fully describes Srila Prabhupada's condition in 1977. It should be noted that dropsy can be the result of either arsenic poisoning or kidney disease.

Kidney disease can be caused by diabetes, drug abuse, high blood pressure, and among other things, poisoning by heavy metals. Chronic, or gradual, kidney failure may show few or no symptoms at first.  Mild or moderate kidney failure may show only mild symptoms, and much damage usually has occurred before the symptoms become very apparent. The metabolic waste product called urea increases in the blood due to the inability of the kidneys to eliminate it from the body.  Nephritis (infection of or damage to the kidneys) causes swelling of the body, called edema.

A list of the kidney disease symptoms that Srila Prabhupada displayed in 1977 are given in the next chapter. Kidney disease symptoms are remarkably similar to those of chronic arsenic poisoning, with one distinguishing feature. That feature is that arsenic poisoning will often produce additional symptoms not reconcilable with kidney disease. Those symptoms unique to chronic arsenic poisoning were clearly observed in Srila Prabhupada's 1977 health history, and are described in Chapters 20-31. Further, when the symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning are confirmed by an actual hair analysis, as has been done (see Chapter 33), then there can be no doubt of the accuracy of this diagnosis. These two corroborating pieces of evidence, coupled with much other corroborating evidence, leaves little doubt.

What we observe in Srila Prabhupada's physical symptoms is this:

1.       All of His symptoms are compatible with arsenic poisoning.

2.       Many of His symptoms are incompatible with kidney disease.

If we had found that all the symptoms matched kidney disease and many were incompatible with arsenic poisoning, it would be a whole different story. But that was not the case. Therefore, chronic arsenic poisoning is the correct diagnosis without doubt. Remember, arsenic poisoning causes kidney disease or aggravates it when already present. A good example to keep in mind is a comparison of how high cholesterol foods cause heart disease, and similarly, arsenic will cause kidney disease.

Various types of kidney ailments display symptoms quite different from each other. For example, chronic kidney failure does not produce the swelling or edema characteristic to nephritis. Even so, kidney ailments are often "complex" and more than one disorder is commonly present. We cannot precisely diagnose which kind of kidney ailment Srila Prabhupada may have had, due to the complication of arsenic intoxication and lack of medical tests.

In the next chapter, all the kidney disease symptoms that were observed in Srila Prabhupada are listed in Section One, numbering 24 in total. They are all also symptoms of arsenic poisoning. The truth is that many of these 24 symptoms may have been solely due to arsenic poisoning and had nothing to do with the particular kidney ailment that Srila Prabhupada had. Even though many of these 24 symptoms probably were produced by arsenic poisoning, since they are also synonymous with kidney disease, they do not in themselves establish arsenic poisoning. For example, no appetite may very well have been due to arsenic and not kidney problems. But, to make a conservative scientific presentation, these symptoms have been placed on the list of joint kidney/arsenic symptoms. (namely Section One)

Nevertheless, we still have a separate list (Section Two) of 21 additional symptoms which are unique only to arsenic poisoning. Altogether, therefore, there are 45 symptoms of arsenic poisoning, which makes a very strong diagnosis.  We find an overwhelming case for arsenic poisoningwhen we judge from both Section One and Two (listed in next chapter) of the symptoms.

As Srila Prabhupada had a history for years of some swelling in His extremities, it is very likely that He did have some kidney disability or disease, which became much worse in 1977. Abhiram's reference  to back-pressure of urine causing damage to the kidneys (Appendix 4 )does not invalidate or contradict an arsenic poisoning scenario; it is wholly compatible with a case of chronic arsenic poisoning. The point is that the condition of His kidneys was aggravated and made worse, if not outright caused, by the arsenic poisoning.  Until now it was easy to mis-diagnose Srila Prabhupada's 1977 ailment as simply "kidney problems". However, the new evidence presented in this publication proves it was chronic arsenic poisoning.




Srila Prabhupada displayed the symptoms of poisoning, as He Himself stated twice. But which poison? There are many poisons which are effective in causing death. The factors which led this author to examine arsenic poisoning as the best match to Srila Prabhupada's symptoms, as studied in His 1977 health history, are as follows:

1.       The opinion of an Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Mehta, detailed below

2.       Arsenic is an age-old method of choice for poisoning in politics and intrigue, during the Middle Ages and in India (see Appendix14 )

3.       Arsenic is readily available in India

4.       The speech reversals (see Chapter 37-38 ) reveal arsenic poisoning

5.       It was found that Srila Prabhupada's symptoms were incredibly similar to those of Napoleon

6.       Arsenic poisoning is very difficult to recognize, and looks like kidney disease and a normal "old-age" deterioration of physical health

Dr. Mehta, an Ayurvedic physician who lives in Houston, was shown several photographs of Srila Prabhupada during His last days, and he also observed the video documentary of Srila Prabhupada's last months entitled: "The Final Lesson." Dr. Mehta has been a practicing Ayurvedic physician since 1948. His summary comments are:

"The expression and symptoms of the face, the eyes and the manner of speaking indicate to me that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned, most probably by arsenic or mercury. He Himself said that He was poisoned, confirmed by dullness of the face and how the natural color of the body is gone. This is very hard for the average person to understand; only the experienced eye can tell."

Srila Prabhupada, as we shall see, clearly displayed the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, and not simply the symptoms of kidney failure alone. The symptoms of kidney failure were definitely present and are repeatedly observed. There are, however, many other very prominently displayed symptoms which are synonymous with arsenical intoxication, and these symptoms are not found in any condition of kidney disease or diabetes. Let it be stated here again that arsenical intoxication produces kidney malfunction and failure. Thus it is so easy to mistake arsenic poisoning for kidney disease, as many, perhaps about half, of the symptoms are identical or similar.

In consulting with Dr. Stopford of the Duke University Department of Toxicology, it was also confirmed that many of Srila Prabhupada's symptoms cannot be explained by kidney or diabetic diseases, but most surely can be attributed to arsenic poisoning. Symptom analysis is a very critical element of the research into Srila Prabhupada's cause of "death."


           Chronic and acute poisoning differ in that chronic means exposure over a prolonged period of time in smaller amounts and acute is more all at once.  Subacute poisoning is in between the two.  Because Srila Prabhupada's health declined over ten months, chronic poisoning is compatible with His health history, whereas acute poisoning might apply to the final days and subacute poisoning applies to marked and drastic downturns in His health.

           Arsenic is found in nature in low levels, and has been a common environmental contaminant in the twentieth century. In its various chemical forms, it can be highly poisonous and has actually been used for thousands of years for killing others, in political intrigue, revenge, murder, war, and the elimination of perceived enemies. Medicinally, arsenic compounds have been useful in the West at least since the time of Hippocrates in the 5th century BC. In modern times, arsenic has been used to treat skin diseases, anemia,  syphilis, and other ailments.

           Arsenic is a natural element having both metal and non-metal physical and chemical properties. In its chemical behavior, it resembles nitrogen, phosphorus, antimony and bismuth. In nature it exists as an element, and also in stable compounds, trivalent (-3 or +3) and pentavalent (+5). It binds covalently with most non-metals (notably oxygen and sulfur) and with metals such as cadmium and lead. In biochemical behavior, it resembles phosphorus, competing with phosphorus analogs for chemical binding sites. Toxicity of the various arsenic compounds in mammals extends over a wide range, determined, in part, by unique biochemical actions of each compound, but also by absorbability and efficiency of biotransformation and disposition.

Arsines (gaseous) are most poisonous, followed closely by arsenites and arsenates (inorganic trivalent compounds). Inorganic pentavalent compounds are somewhat less toxic than arsenites, while the organic (methylated) pentavalent compounds incur the least hazard of the arsenicals, with widespread use in pesticides.  Inorganic arsenite as arsenic trioxide is the most prevalent natural form and is also the most toxic form of arsenic besides arsine gas. Arsenic metal is thought to be nonpoisonous due to its insolubility in water or bodily fluids. In animals and plants arsenic combines with hydrogen or carbon to make organic compounds.

           Pentavalent arsenicals are relatively water soluble and absorbable across mucous membranes, while trivalent arsenicals, having some water solubility but greater lipid (fat) solubility, are more readily absorbed across the skin. The arsenite salts are more soluble in water and are better absorbed than the oxide. Experimental evidence has shown a high degree of gastrointestinal absorption of both trivalent and pentavalent forms of arsenic, most compounds exceeding a 90% absorptive rate. The greatest absorption occurs predominantly in the small intestine and colon.

Goldfrank's text states: "Tasteless and odorless, arsenic is well-absorbed via the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and parenteral routes." Ingestion has been the usual basis of poisoning and gut absorption efficiency depends on: the physical form of the compound, its solubility characteristics, the gastric Ph, gastrointestinal motility, and gut microbial transformations.

Once absorbed, many arsenicals accumulate in and cause extensive toxic injury to cells of the kidney, liver, spleen, lungs, heart, nervous system, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, and other tissues. Much smaller amounts accumulate in muscle and neural tissue, but cause great toxic injury there as well. If a victim survives arsenic poisoning after the first few days, the liver and kidneys show degenerative changes.

           Two biochemical mechanisms of toxicity are recognized with arsenic:

1.   reversible combinations with thiol groups contained in tissue proteins and enzymes

2.   substitution of arsenic ions for phosphate in many reactions, including those critical to oxidative phosphorylation.

Arsenic is thought to cause toxicity by combining with sulfhydryl (-SH) enzymes and interfering with cellular metabolism.

Most arsenic compounds are tasteless and odorless. Arsenic trioxide (As2O3) used to be a common cause of accidental poisoning because it is readily available, is practically tasteless, and has the appearance of sugar as a white crystalline powder. Arsenic trioxide, also known as arsenious oxide, white arsenic or simply as arsenic, is extremely toxic as one of the deadliest known poisons, with 60 to 200 milligrams being fatal. This amounts to about 1/300 of an ounce or the weight of one quarter of a 3 by 3 inch post-it note. Arsenic also has been used and is stored around the world for military purposes as a poison gas. Arsenic is extracted from nature by smelting arsenopyrite, found widely around the world.

Children, embryos, the chronically-ill, and the elderly are more sensitive to arsenical intoxication. The type of compound, dosage, health condition and duration of exposure are critical factors. Arsenic compounds are commonly found commercially in treated lumber, wood preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, dyes, and paints, and is often present in tainted tobacco and some old folk remedies. Tryparsamide, carbasone and arsphenamine are a few arsenic compounds used in medicine to treat ailments such as intestinal parasites, syphilis, psoriasis and dysentery.

In arsenic poisoning, urinalysis may reveal proteinuria, hematuria, and pyuria. Urinary arsenic excretion varies inversely with the postexposure time period, but low-level excretion may continue for months after exposure.  In cases of suspected arsenic toxicity in which the urinary arsenic measurements fall below accepted toxic levels, analysis of hair and nails may permit a diagnosis. Because of the high sulfhydryl content of keratin, high concentrations of arsenic are deposited in hair and nails.  Chronic ingestion of small amounts of arsenic, as is suspected in the case of Srila Prabhupada's poisoning, result in highest concentrations in hair, nails, and skin, tissues which are rich in cysteine-containing proteins. Chronic accumulation also occurs in the lungs.

Deposition in the proximal portions of hair can be detected within 30 hours of ingestion, and arsenic stays fixed at this site for years (in Napoleon's case, 150 years).  Hair grows at a rate of 0.4 mm per day (half inch a month) while nail grows 0.1 mm per day. Total replacement of a fingernail takes 3-4 months while toenails require 6-9 months of growth. Because of its chemical similarity to phosphorus, arsenic is deposited in bone and teeth and is retained there for long periods.

Humans eliminate and detoxify inorganic arsenic by a metabolic process of methylation, yielding cacodylic acid (dimethylarsinic acid) as the chief urinary excretion product. Biomethylation can quickly become saturated, however, the result being the deposition of increasing amounts of arsenic in soft tissues. Otherwise arsenic can be eliminated by many routes (feces, urine, sweat, milk, hair, skin, lungs), although most is excreted in urine. The half-life for urinary excretion is 3 to 5 days, during which time great damage is done to the internal tissues and organs.  Another half of the remaining amount is eliminated within another week, the next half-life in another month, etc. Thus after 6 weeks there still remains about 10 to 15 % of the original amount in the urine.  Thus repeated doses will begin to accumulate in the body quickly despite the process of elimination.  As arsenic takes its toll, the body loses its ability to eliminate it, compounding the toxic accumulation and the rate of internal destruction of tissues and organs.

In single or acute arsenic poisonings, the arsenic is deposited throughout the body in most organs and tissues.  If there is chronic poisoning of repeated doses over a long period of time, the efficiency of elimination by the body dramatically decreases and arsenic accumulates much more permanently in the internal organs and tissues. The blood, liver, brain, heart and kidneys are top priority in the body's cleansing, while arsenic is pushed out the urine and into the hair, nails and skin as much as possible.  Chronic poisoning gradually takes a serious irreversible toll of damage to the blood manufacturing capability, the kidneys and liver, the brain and heart, the central nervous system progressing from the periphery inwards, and the muscular system, among other areas of acute damage.

Some of the symptoms of arsenic poisoning can be seen with other illnesses, making it very difficult for a doctor to detect it, and it is easily mis-diagnosed as more commonly understood ailments and diseases, such as kidney disease. (see Appendix 13) Chronic (low level) arsenic poisoning from repeated absorption of toxic amounts generally has an insidious (subtle or stealthy) onset of clinical effects and is very difficult for a doctor to recognize.

Arsenic poisoning can be detected by studying the patient's symptoms, or by the testing of tissue samples, hair, fingernails, teeth, or urine. The onset of gastrointestinal symptoms may be so gradual that the possibility of arsenic poisoning would be easily overlooked. Over all, arsenic intoxication has not been extensively studied due to its rarity, and its effects are not fully known.

In observing Srila Prabhupada's stubborn reluctance to take any food or drink for many months, and in light of the fact that Srila Prabhupada Himself stated He was being poisoned, it is interesting to quote Goldfrank's text with this advice:

"For all cases, if homicidal intent is suspected, patients should be advised against accepting food or drink from anyone. Visitors should be closely monitored and outside nutritional products should be forbidden."


Signs and symptoms of arsenic toxicity vary depending on the amount and form ingested; the rate of absorption, metabolism and excretion; and the time course of ingestion (chronic, sub-acute or acute).  The principal manifestations of arsenic poisoning are gastrointestinal disturbances and result in four most common symptoms: thickening skin, discoloration of skin, swelling and muscle weakness. In chronic cases, skin manifestations may not appear for years. When toxicity is more acute, symptoms typically begin with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea which may be rice water or cholera like. Gastrointestinal ulcerative lesions and hemorrhage can occur.

Arsenic poisoning results in the gradual onset of skin, blood and neuralogic manifestations, and less dramatic gastrointestinal symptoms. Initially patients (or victims) report progressive weakness, anorexia and nausea. With prolonged ingestion of small doses there may beincreased salivation, inflammation in the mouth, running nose, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and many other symptoms. Small and repeated doses of arsenic poisoning may finally result in death or totally broken health after many months or years, as was the case with Napoleon Bonaparte and his son, the Duke of Reichstadt. (See Chapter 34: Napoleon: A Case History)

Cardiovascular instability often accompanies or quickly follows these symptoms. Intravascular volume depletion, capillary leak myocardial dysfunction, and diminished systemic vascular resistance contribute to the hypotension, or low blood pressure, that follows. Patients with severe poisoning may also quickly develop acute encephalopathy with delirium, seizures, coma, dysrhythmias, fever, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, hepatitis, rhabdomyolisis, hemolytic anemia, acute renal failure, and death. The encephalopathy may develop over several days following an acute ingestion and is attributed to underlying cerebral edema and focal microhemorrhages.

Fever may occur and reinforce a misdiagnosis of sepsis, or blood poisoning from pathogenic micro-organisms. Hepatitis can develop. Acute renal failure has occurred in many cases.  The etiology may be multifactorial, including renal ischemia secondary to hypotension, myoglobinuric- and hemoglobinuric-induced failure, renal cortical necrosis, and a direct toxin effect on renal tubules. Glutathione depletion, which can exist in alcoholics and malnourished patients, may enhance the nephrotoxicity of arsenic. Unilateral facial nerve palsy, acute pancreatitis, pericarditis, and pleuritis are also possible. Arsenic will also cause fetal demise in pregnant women.

Arsenic poisoned patients with less severe illness may experience persistent gastroenteritis and mild hypotension, necessitating hospitalization and intravenous fluids for days. This prolonged course is atypical for most viral and bacterial enteric illnesses (flu, etc) and should alert the physician to consider arsenic toxicity, especially if the gastroenteritis recurs. Patients may complain of a metallic taste. The garlicky breath odor of arsenic is typical.

Arsenic irritates mucous membranes. The irritated mucous membranes can appear to be pharyngitis or laryngitis, leading to a misdiagnosis of upper respiratory tract infection. Dry hacking cough and buildup of mucus is common, necessitating further coughing to spit out the mucus. Other respiratory symptoms include rales, hemoptysis, dyspnea, chest pain, and patchy interstitial infiltrates. Again, the possibility for misdiagnosis of bronchitis, viral pneumonia, flu, cold, or persistent upper respiratory infection exists. Usually several hospital visits may occur before a correct diagnosis can be rendered in the case of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Further signs and symptoms may develop sub-acutely in the days to weeks following the acute toxic episode. Peripheral neuropathy due to axonal degeneration typically develops 1-3 weeks after arsenic ingestion. Sensory symptoms predominate early, with patients complaining of "pins and needles" or electric shock like pains in the lower extremities. Early on, there may be diminished or absent vibratory or positional sense in the limbs. As the neuropathy progresses, symptoms include numbness, tingling, and formication with physical findings of diminished to absent pain, touch, temperature, and deep tendon reflexes in a stocking-glove distribution. Obliterative arterial disease may occur in the legs and feet. Blackfoot's disease, a type of gangrene of the extremities, may occur, as is common in southwest Taiwan due to highly contaminated well water.

Encephalopathic symptoms of headache, confusion, decreased memory, personality change, irritability, hallucinations, delirium, and seizures may develop or persist. Cerebral edema may occur. Sixth cranial nerve palsy and bilateral sensorineural hearing loss have been reported during this subacute period. Superficial touch of the extremities may elicit severe or deep aching pains. Diffuse, symmetrical painful neuritis begins in the peripheral extremities and progresses proximally. It also involves distinct muscle and motor weakness and wasting, perhaps manifesting as an ascending flaccid paralysis mimicking Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

In addition, prolonged central nervous system effects have been described. Abnormal electrocardiograms, peripheral blood vessel damage, and liver damage have been reported. Many types of cancer may follow arsenical poisoning: skin, lung, liver, bone, kidney, bladder and others, often as long as 30 to 50 years later. Virtually all parts of the human body are effected by arsenic poisoning. Laboratory tests for diagnosis should include complete blood count, liver and renal function tests, and blood and urine arsenic levels. An abdominal radiograph (X-ray) may well show radiopaque contents after ingestion of arsenic. Keep this in mind when you read about Dr. Gopal wanting to bring an X-ray machine to Srila Prabhupada's room in Vrindaban in October 1977. Such an X-ray could very well have shown a large white splotch in the liver or abdomen, as arsenic is radiopaque.

Dermatologic lesions can include patchy alopecia (hair loss), oral herpetic-appearing lesions, a diffuse pruritic macular rash, and a brawny, nonpruritic desquamation. Mees lines of the nails, horizontal 1 or 2 mm white lines which represent arsenic deposition, occur about 5 % of the time in acute or chronic cases. In those cases where Mees lines are found, a delay of 30-40 days after ingestion is required for the lines to extend visibly beyond the nail lunalae. Facial and peripheral edema may develop as well as diaphoresis. Numerous dermatologic lesions can develop.

Other potential toxic manifestations include pancytopenia, nephropathy, fatigue, anorexia with weight loss, as well as persistence of acute gastrointestinal symptoms. With chronic, low-level arsenic exposure, many sub-acute symptoms may develop or persist, including headache, chronic encephalopathy, peripheral sensori-motor neuropathy, malaise, chronic cough, and peripheral edema. Gastrointestinal symptoms may be absent, although cases with colicky abdominal pain, nausea, and persistent diarrhea have been reported. Other results of arsenic poisoning may be lung damage, eventual atrophy and degeneration of extremities, terminal hypoxic convulsions (in acute poisoning) due to lack of oxygen reaching the body, severe damage of the blood (hemolysis) and bone marrow, resulting in the decrease of blood manufacture and the inability to regenerate tissues.

Slow, partial recovery from peripheral neuropathy most commonly occurs, with mild cases having a better prognosis. In a case series of 40 patients followed for variable time periods, 60 % experienced partial recovery over 5 months to 5 years, 15 % had full recovery from 40 days to 6 years, while 5 % had no recovery over 5 years. The remainder either were lost to follow-up or died. Improvement in the peripheral neuropathy is often accompanied by transient severe pains in the extremities. Patients who develop encephalopathy may recover poorly.

The minimum lethal exposure of ingested arsenic is only about one milligram per kilogram of weight. A dose of 200 milligrams would usually be lethal in an adult, but considering Srila Prabhupada's weight, much less would be lethal. For arsine gas, immediate death has occurred at 150 parts per million. These figures demonstrate the extreme toxicity of arsenic.

As we progress through the health history, keep in mind these descriptions of chronic, low-level arsenic poisoning. A partial review of such general conditions are:

1. The principal manifestations are gastrointestinal disturbances

2. Initially victims report progressive weakness, anorexia and nausea.

3. Small and repeated doses of arsenic poisoning may finally result in death or totally broken health after many months or years

4. The irritated mucous membranes can appear to be pharyngitis or laryngitis, leading to a misdiagnosis of upper respiratory tract infection. Dry hacking cough and buildup of mucus is common.

5. Toxic manifestations include nephropathy, fatigue, anorexia, weight loss

While we see that Srila Prabhupada displayed some symptoms contrary to kidney disease and many contrary to diabetes, we also see that:

SRILA PRABHUPADA HAD NO SYMPTOMS CONTRARY TO THOSE OF ARSENIC POISONING. The consistency of Srila Prabhupada's physical symptoms with chronic arsenic poisoning is quite apparent and amazing. The health history in Chapters 20 -31 is very convincing in demonstrating that Srila Prabhupada displayed the symptoms of arsenic poisoning. It is to be remembered that arsenic poisoning causes kidney disease.


A full list of symptoms variously manifested in arsenic poisoning are:


Symptoms Common to Kidney Disease & Arsenic Poisoning

Those symptoms which are common to both arsenic poisoning and various kidney diseases are marked "AK" for arsenic/kidney. Between arsenic poisoning and kidney disease there may be some subtle differences in some of the symptoms, but are similar enough to represent both.




AK4      ABDOMINAL CRAMPS, GASTRIC PAIN due to inflammation of stomach and intestines

AK5      EXTREME WEAKNESS, LACK OF ENERGY, ANEMIA, beginning as a marked general fatigue (low-level doses of arsenic)

AK6      HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: hypertension

AK7      SEIZURES, SPASMS, and convulsions

AK8      GENERALIZED ITCHING (parethesia): tingling, burning; abnormal skin sensations, especially of the extremities; wanting to rub, brush or massage the body for relief

AK9      STOMATITIS: inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes of the mouth and esophagus

AK10    SKIN COLOR CHANGES: Bronzing, yellowing coloration

AK11    PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE WEAKNESS (electromyography)


AK13    SMALL AMOUNTS OF URINE; infrequently or frequently

AK14    DIFFICULTY IN URINATION: or inability to urinate (anuria)

AK15    KIDNEY MALFUNCTION (renal failure or damage)

AK16    DISCOLORATION OR CASTS IN URINE: hematuria (blood), proteinuria (protein), or oval fatty droplets in urine; cloudy, brown

AK17    EDEMA: the swelling of tissues



AK20    UNPLEASANT TASTE No taste or metallic taste in mouth


AK22    HEART PALPITATIONS (delayed cardiomyopathy), and heart damage due to direct toxic action and electrolyte disturbances.

AK23    IRREGULAR HEAT BEAT: ventricular arrhythmia, electrocardiographic abnormalities such as a prolonged Q-T interval

AK24    HIGH PULSE RATE: tachycardia: quickened heart beat, and sometimes a slow pulse due to varying amounts of arsenic


Symptoms Unique To Arsenic Poisoning And Not To Kidney Diseases

Those symptoms unique only arsenic poisoning and NOT kidney disease are listed in Section Two and are marked "A" for arsenic.

A1        PHOTOPHOBIA: extreme sensitivity by the eyes to light

A2        HOARSE, WEAK, OR SLURRED VOICE: sore throat,

inflamed pharynx and larynx, thickened vocal chords

A3        MUCUS AND COUGH: discharging mucus, clogged with mucus; inflammation and irritation of the respiratory and nasal mucosa, persistent dry cough, coryza


A5        HYPERKERATOSIS: Abnormal enlargement of thick skin areas

A6        DROOLING: excessive salivation

A7        HYPOTHERMIA: coldness in body, especially limbs: poor blood circulation in extremities due to peripheral vascular insufficiency

A8        CONJUNCTIVITIS: watering eyes, mucus in eyes, tearing eyes

A9        LOSS OF VISION due to brain damage or optic nerve damage

A10      HEAVY WITH SLEEP: sleeping unusually long and deep, or disturbance in sleep rhythm; somnolence alternating with insomnia

A11      BEHAVIORAL CHANGES or changes of disposition such as unusual emotional displays, insecurity, depression, sensitivity, tearfulness, exaggerated optimism. Tendency to periods of emotionalism expressed by tearfulness.

A12      MENTAL DISTURBANCE OR LOSS OF MENTAL FUNCTIONS due to encephalopathy (brain damage)

A13      CONSTIPATION (alternated with diarrhea)

A14      HEARING LOSS: dysesthesia, impairment of senses

A15      INDIGESTION due to bile duct obstruction and intestinal damage


A17      SUDDEN WEAKNESS OR COLLAPSE OF LEGS, WEAKNESS IN CALF MUSCLES, especially in early stages, due to fatty degeneration of muscles, difficulty in walking



A20      PARALYSIS OF AND PAINS IN LEGS(motor and sensory) due to nerve damage (peripheral neuritis and neuropathy) pains or numbness

A21      LOOSENING & LOSS OF TEETH or nails, bleeding, swollen gums


List of symptoms unique only to arsenic poisoning and not kidney disease which were not exhibited by Srila Prabhupada, as far as we know at present. Further information may verify more symptoms.

1.       Garlic odor of breath, perspiration or stool

2.   Exfoliative dermatitis: Scaly, flaky, inflamed skin (after about 3 years in low-level arsenic poisoning)

3.   Mees lines: Transverse white striae of fingernail arsenic deposits

4.   Frequent headache; delirium, coma

5.       Nose bleeds (epistaxis)

6.   Severe thirst and fluid loss

7.   Paralysis of eye muscles (ophthalmoplegia) due to brain damage

8.       Blisters and open sores, usually in more acute or prolonged poisonings (Srila Prabhupada had "bedsores")

9.       Dysphagia: difficulty in swallowing (from the tapes, it sounds like Srila Prabhupada's swallowing and drinking were difficult).

10.  Paresis (partial paralysis) to quadriplegia (paralysis from neck down)

     Srila Prabhupada could not move his legs or torso near the end of His illness, but that may have also been due to extreme weakness.

11.   Anesthesia: loss of tactile or skin sensation, numbness

12.   Disappearance of the fine body hairs resulting in very smooth skin

In arsenical poisoning, or in any medical condition, not all possible symptoms may be manifest, and probably will not be present. This was confirmed again in consultation with Dr. Page Hudson, retired Chief Medical Examiner and forensic pathologist. One devotee said that because Srila Prabhupada showed no obvious sweating (an arsenic poisoning symptom), therefore arsenic poisoning could not be the cause of His ill health. This is not the way to diagnose or understand medical conditions except for those looking to support their conscious or unconscious prejudices. May the reader try to set those prejudices aside in the search for the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Bibliographical Sources: for Ch. 17, 18, 32, 33, App. 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 22.

1.   Internet /re: Symptoms of Arsenic and Mercury Poisoning

2.       Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, McGraw-Hill, 14th Ed

3.       The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics: Goodman & Gilman, McGraw-Hill, 9th Ed, pgs 1660-1661

4.   Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997 Home Edition

5.       Kidney and Urinary Tract: Diseases and Disorders Sourcebook, Ed. By L.M. Ross 1997

6.       Handbook of Poisoning: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment, 12th Ed, Dreisbach & Robertson, pgs 221-224.

7.       Assassination at St. Helena, Weider & Forshufvud, John & Wiley, 1978, 1995 (Revisited)

8.       Hazardous Materials Toxicology: Clinical Principles of Environmental Health, Ed. By Sullivan & Krieger, Williams & Wilkins

9.       Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies, 6th Ed., Appleton & Lange

10.   Website:

11.   Poisindex (R) Toxicologic Managements: Arsenic

12.   Comprehensive Review in Toxicology, 2nd ed.,  Peter D. Bryson, An Aspen Publication, 1989

13.   The Heavy Elements: Chemistry, Environmental Impact and Health Effects, Jack E. Fergusson, Pergamon Press

14.   Comprehensive Review in Toxicology for Emergency Clinicians, 3rd ed., Peter D. Bryson, M.D., Taylor & Francis Publishing, 1996

15.   Ellenhorn's Medical Toxicology: Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Poisonings, 2nd ed., Matthew J. Ellenhorn, M.D., Williams & Wilkins

16.   Case Studies in Poisoning, Shirley K. Osterhout, M.D., Medical Examination Publishing Co., Inc., 1981

17.   Loomis's Essentials of Toxicology, 4th ed., Ted A. Loomis, A. Wallace Hayes, Academic Press, 1996

18.   Basic Toxicology, Fundamentals, Target Organs, and Risk Assessment, 3rd ed., Frank C. Lu, Taylor Francis Publishing, 1996

19.   Manual of Toxicologic Emergencies, Eric K. Noji, Gaber D. Kelen, Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc., 1989

20.   Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals, 2nd ed., Volume II: Specific Metals, eds: Lars Friberg, Gunnar F. Nordberg, Velimer B. Vouk, Elsevier (pub), 1987

21.   Case Studies in Environmental Medicine: Arsenic Toxicity, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1990

22.   Handbook of Poisoners, Raymond T. Bond, Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1951

23.   Arsenic, Committee on Medical and Biologic Effects of Environmental Pollutants, National Academy of Sciences (pub), 1977

24.   Casarett and Doull's Toxicology, 4th ed., eds: Mary O. Amdur, Ph.D., John Doull, Ph.D., Curtis D. Klaassen, Ph.D., Pergamon Press, 1991

25.   Disposition of Toxicological Drugs and Chemicals In Man, by Baselt and

Cravey, 4th Ed. published in 1995 by the Chemical Toxicology Institute.

26.   Preacher's Girl: Life and Crimes of Blanche Taylor Moore, Jim Schutze

27.   Death Sentence, by Jerry Bledsoe (Account of Velma Barfield's crimes)

Instances in which a symptom is unique only to arsenic poisoning and not produced by kidney disease or diabetes will be identified and prefixed with "A". For example, photophobia is caused by arsenic and not by kidney failure, being listed as arsenic symptom (A1), and drooling is marked in the health history with (A6).

In the following lengthy account of Srila Prabhupada's health history, the reader is asked to study the various physical symptoms and compare them to the lists above. You will find a case of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Srila Prabhupada was afflicted with poor digestion, persistent colds, mucus, and cough, and weak kidneys. Was this due to arsenic poisoning or natural causes?



To reconstruct accurately and completely the particulars of Srila Prabhupada's health history in 1976-7, being twenty two years ago, has been a challenge. No single source is available which fully chronicles Srila Prabhupada's medications or health history, or the various doctors who visited Prabhupada, their diagnoses and their treatments.

The synoptic, synthesized chronicling that follows is based on:

1.   Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita, Volume 6, by Satsvarupa das Goswami

2.   TKG's Diary by Tamal Krishna Goswami

3.   Conversations With Srila Prabhupada, Vol. 29-36, Bhaktivedanta Archives (transcripts of actual 1977 tape recordings)

4.   Abhiram Prabhu's Memoirs, recorded November, 1978 (Archives)

5.       Srutirupa Prabhu's Memoirs, recorded October, 1978 (Archives)

6.       ISKCON in the 1970's by Satsvarupa  das Goswami (1997)

7.       Letters From Srila Prabhupada (Royal Thai BBT)

8.       Letters from Tamal Krishna Maharaj and others (Archives)

9.       Satsvarupa's little red Prabhupada Nectar series (5 volumes)

10.   Miscellaneous other minor biographical sources

The resultant blending of all accounts actually provided a great deal of medical information, especially coming from the tape recordings.  This account of Srila Prabhupada's illness in 1977 allows us to closely examine the historical facts to ascertain exactly what medical condition Srila Prabhupada suffered from. First we will briefly back-track into 1976 to earlier origins of Srila Prabhupada's poor health. There are indications that poisoning of Srila Prabhupada may have started in 1976. In this way, an assassin's cover would be generated by a long previous history of illness which begins gradually, wanes and waxes, and eventually culminates in death. In 1976 the symptoms of illnesses in Hawaii, New Vrindaban, New York, and London are compatible with arsenic poisoning, but could just as well have been simply Srila Prabhupada's weak kidneys and the manifestations of kidney problems. Since we have now verified arsenic poisoning by hair analysis in October 1977 (see Chapter 33 ), it is only natural to wonder when or how far back the poisoning began. Judgment is not rendered about 1976; this information is part of the health biography and is included for future investigative work.

DECEMBER 20, 1975

"Prabhupada is not feeling well; swelling in his legs, feet, and hands trouble him. To see his body puffed with fluid is very disturbing. During his massage I pressed gently on Prabhupada's foot with my thumb to show him the swelling. It left an indentation for several minutes. Prabhupada said this is due to uremia, a toxic condition caused by waste products in the blood normally eliminated in the urine. It makes it very difficult for him to climb the steps to his apartment when returning from the temple. Yet, he tolerates the inconvenience without complaint and dismissed the sight of the dent with a smile and a shake of his head." (Tran Diary Vol 1)

DECEMBER 24, 1975

Morning Walk, Bombay

Dr. Patel: You have taken that tablet for passing more urine?

Prabhupada: Yes.

Dr. Patel: Daily or..., yes or no.

Prabhupada: I am passing (laughing).

Dr. Patel: Yes, sir, but you have got the edema on the leg, and I mean, when...

Prabhupada: It is cured. That one tablet, two tablets, has cured.


AUTHOR'S COMMENT: This establishes that Srila Prabhupada almost certainly had kidney problems long before arsenic poisoning began. END

MAY 1976

           At 1:00 AM on May 4, 1976,in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada rang His bell and Hari Sauri and Pusta Krishna Swami rushed in to attend His Divine Grace's summons. "Looking strained, Prabhupada informed us that he was ill and would not take his usual walk or give the morning Bhagwatam class. He is again having trouble with uremia, using the bathroom every hour. His feet are badly swollen and he is suffering dizzy spells." Coincidentally, Tamal Krishna Goswami and Dristadyumna had arrived from New York "with a written report to give Srila Prabhupada on their China preaching endeavours. Since the Mayapur festival, when Srila Prabhupada ordered Tamal Krishna Maharaj to begin something in China, they have been very seriously studying books..."  The report detailed the immense difficulties there would be met in trying to preach in China. Tamal said that the prospect was hopeless, saying,"it may be possible fifty years from now." Srila Prabhupada said, "Then give it up. If it is too difficult, don't waste time."

           Thus the mission to China was cancelled. Dristadyumna thought that when it was described how Christians had resorted to floating Bibles in balloons on the ocean from hundreds of miles off shore, hoping some would reach Chinese coastal peasants, Srila Prabhupada was impressed with the difficulty of Tamal's China program. Srila Prabhupada dictated a letter to His secretary for all American GBC's, re-installing Tamal to his pre-Mayapur responsibilities as head of the Radha Damodar travelling parties and as a BBT trustee for North America. Tamal returned to Los Angeles on May 7 and soon thereafter relieved Madhudvisa as GBC for the New York zone.

           Hari Sauri chronicles that on May 8, in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada was"now feeling a little better."For a few days He had taken a half tablet of a diuretic daily and the swelling cleared up. On May 10, Srila Prabhupada complained that He was not sleeping well due to "feeling ill with dizziness and passing too much urine."

           While in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada went on regular morning walks and dramatically increased His Bhagwatam translations while also spending hours a day with Hayagriva on the upcoming book Dialectic Spiritualism. On May 22, however, Srila Prabhupada rested long in the afternoon and "complained of weakness due to heart palpitations." Thereafter, Srila Prabhupada visited Los Angeles, Detroit, and Toronto, going to New Vrindaban on June 21. Since His illness in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada had no other striking health problems except for a short and minor cold and a serious toothache in Toronto.

JUNE - JULY 1976

           Hari Sauri Prabhu states in his Transcendental Diary, Volume 3, in the preface: "...warning signs of His Divine Grace's deteriorating health grew stronger. He suffered attacks of toothache, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, kidney disease and flu with stoic indifference, and relentlessly pushed himself on despite his weakening bodily condition."

On June 23, in New Vrindaban, Hari Sauri describes, "Prabhupada said very little on his walk and the class was short. He is experiencing disturbing heart palpitations and his uremia has caused his legs and feet to swell again...(but) his face is no longer swollen."

           On June 24 Srila Prabhupada had further heart palpitations and did not go on a walk. On June 25 and 26, again there were no morning walks, and Srila Prabhupada's heart was "still giving him trouble." On June 28 Srila Prabhupada felt "heart strain" while riding in a pickup truck on a bumpy road. Later He said,"Even in this weak (condition)... I am very weak nowadays. Still I am working... I think I shall not be able to go for walks. This morning my heart was beating too much."

           On June 30, Hari Sauri describes, "Srila Prabhupada was not well again today and had an ashen  pallor... He took only a very short walk..."and notes that Srila Prabhupada had Pradyumna Prabhu give class. He spoke for a few minutes at the end to make some comments. "When Srila Prabhupada is unable to discourse on Krishna conscious philosophy, it is a serious matter indeed."Later in the morning Srila Prabhupada began to feel better. However, the next day Srila Prabhupada skipped His walk and His class was short, perhaps fifteen minutes."He is still weak and congested with mucus... He doesn't eat much of anything..."On July 2 there was no morning walk, and on July 3 His health was"still not good."On July 4, Hari Sauri describes, "His respiratory system is quite blocked with mucus, making his voice sometimes thick and husky."

           Srila Prabhupada arrived in New York on July 9th and was hosted by Tamal Krishna Goswami as GBC and Adi Keshava Swami as temple president. On July 12 at 2:15 AM Srila Prabhupada called for Hari Sauri. "...he looked very ill. He was gaunt and complained of severe chest pains and an inability to either rest or work. He had already changed his diet to simple kichari because of these symptoms, but the problem has persisted... Despite his illness during the night, Srila Prabhupada still went on his walk this morning." At noon Srila Prabhupada again complained of chest pains, which He attributed to "too much anxiety." In the afternoon Srila Prabhupada had a pain in His foot, which Hari Sauri massaged for almost two hours.

           On July 14, "illness forced Prabhupada to cancel his afternoon darshan."  Early in the morning of July 16, while visiting Gita Nagari farm, Srila Prabhupada again called Hari Sauri to His room. Srila Prabhupada was sitting at His desk but was not using the dictaphone. "He was ashen, and told me he was experiencing severe kidney pain and could not translate. It was the same problem..."  Later that day, back in New York, Dr. Bhagat, a life member, examined Srila Prabhupada. The diagnosis was very high blood pressure, a weak heart, and uremia which was probably due to a kidney stone. A diuretic, an antibiotic, a pain reliever, sleeping pills and a psychotropic relaxant were prescribed. No sugar or salt were to be taken either. However, Srila Prabhupada took no medicines and did not change His diet.

           On July 20, Srila Prabhupada"now has a heavy cold which is worsening," causing Srila Prabhupada to take only a dry bath and skip His massage. Senior devotees encouraged Srila Prabhupada to delay His scheduled departure that evening so He could rest and recover without the difficulty of travel. Srila Prabhupada could not be convinced to stay. The overnight flight to London was very very hard on Srila Prabhupada. "Racked by a heavy cold, Prabhupada spent practically the whole flight lying down, coughing up large amounts of mucus every few minutes." He hardly moved for over six hours.

           Coming off the plane, Srila Prabhupada walked slowly, wobbly, and hesitatingly. He was very ill. On the ride to the temple, it was necessary to stop twice on the roadside for Srila Prabhupada to vomit. "It was alarming because it consisted more of thick, yellow bile and mucus rather than food waste." Arriving at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Srila Prabhupada went straight to His rooms and "immediately took rest for the remainder of the day." Resting until the next morning, Srila Prabhupada "seems to have recovered a little... He had heart palpitations," was very weak, managed to eat only two spoonfuls of fruit, refused massage, ate no lunch except a few bites of kichari, and asked Harikesh that arrangements be made to return to Bombay at once. Srila Prabhupada rested all afternoon again, still very ill. On July 23 and 24 His health improved a little and the "cold" receded.

           The strain of preaching, stairways, and lectures weakened Srila Prabhupada and on July 26 He rested all morning, "although he has begun to eat more today." When George Harrison visited and asked about His health, Srila Prabhupada replied, "I have old man's disease, cough and cold, so coughing.” On July 27 Hari Sauri notes that Srila Prabhupada was still coughing and full of mucus. The next day Srila Prabhupada flew to Paris, and "he is at least well enough to walk and resume his travels." On His first night in France, He resumed some translation work, the first since leaving New York a week earlier.

           At the farm in France, Srila Prabhupada is reported on July 30:

"...still weak, and after a very short morning walk... He is still full of mucus and alters his diet frequently to speed recovery." On July 31, Hari Sauri describes,"Since we arrived Prabhupada has been resting until late in the morning, after 7 AM. He has not taken a full morning walk since leaving New York. This morning he ate very little for breakfast. He also told us to make all endeavour necessary to prevent him from catching cold. He said that, 'With an old body, it means thin blood, and this turns to mucus. And when there is too much mucus it blocks the heart, and this is very dangerous.' He has spent the last couple of days sitting quietly in his room, but at least he is once again having his massage in the sunshine and taking a full bath."


           On August 1, Srila Prabhupada felt strong enough to make a short tour of the France farm grounds. On August 3, Hari Sauri says, "It was good to see him eating with relish even though it wasn't much. His appetite appears to be increasing, and he has requested fresh fruit and milk with Chyavana-prash for the morning. 'And when I'm feeling little better, someday we can take puri and...'" The next day Srila Prabhupada asked for some bada, made with dal paste and some neem leaf powder, which He had not taken since April in Bombay. Late on the 4 th, Srila Prabhupada "...fell silent for a while, occasionally still coughing, but at least not dislodging the heavy mucus of just a few days ago."

           In Tehran on August 9, Srila Prabhupada again ate some bada which contains neem leaves, something He explained was very good to maintain a good appetite. On August 11 Hari Sauri observed that Srila Prabhupada ate at regular times in spite of the fasting till noon due to Lord Balaram's appearance day."His health is always bad and even to miss one meal would be very detrimental to his body."

Back in Bombay on August 14,"Dr. Patel, Srila Prabhupada's Bombay walking partner, showed up... to go out onto Juhu beach with Prabhupada. However, because of the persistent swelling in Prabhupada's legs caused by his malfunctioning kidneys he wasn't feeling up to it..."

On August 15 Srila Prabhupada gave one of His teeth to Hari Sauri upon request. It had loosened and Srila Prabhupada simply took it out of His mouth the night before and placed it in the drawer of His desk. Hari Sauri says,"Prabhupada is attempting to treat his disease by adjusting the spicing in his diet. In the morning he instructed Palika to (cook)... We were delighted to see him eat and he told us that the spicing had given him a good appetite." In Hyderabad, on August 19: "We are all fasting for half a day (Vyasa-puja day) but unfortunately Srila Prabhupada is also practically having to fast. He has had bad digestion and is coughing up a lot of mucus. He had only a very small amount of fruit for breakfast and simply khichari and yogurt for lunch."

On August 22, Hari Sauri says, "Prabhupada's digestive problems are continuing, and so for lunch he elected to have only steamed vegetables and khichari, with a small amount of ghee in a separate bowl." It is also noted that a month after becoming ill upon leaving New York, Srila Prabhupada" still not going out for his morning walks." On August 27, in New Delhi, Srila Prabhupada's "physical health is still weak, and so he took the opportunity for a little well-earned rest." The next day on His morning walk, He was "still feeling weak. He sat for most of the time on a bench... Since returning from Europe his health has definitely improved."

In Vrindaban on September 11, Hari Sauri states,"Prabhupada's health is not very good. He has been suffering from high blood pressure for several days, and today he has toothache. Indeed, he seems to be suffering a general decline in health and strength. At this time last year he was striding strongly down the road every morning for at least an hour and seemed quite full of vigor. Now he rarely takes such walks." Srila Prabhupada went for a walk on the roof and had strained to manage the last few steps, commenting, "Now I am old." Harikesh also observed that Srila Prabhupada's muscle tone had declined.

On September 13, Srila Prabhupada is noted as having"great difficulty speaking very much at the moment due to his high blood pressure." His classes were becoming noticeably shorter. On September 19 and 20, Srila Prabhupada felt quite ill due to "high blood pressure." It is not understood from Hari Sauri's accounts exactly what led to this unofficial diagnosis of high blood pressure. On September 30, Hari Sauri again mentions the high blood pressure problems. In the night of October 7, Srila Prabhupada complained of chest pains.

The above information was obtained from Hari Sauri Prabhu's Transcendental Diary, Volumes 2, 3 and 4.  Volume 5, which will begin

with October 9, 1976, has not yet been published as of this printing, but it is anticipated with great enthusiasm. We have very little information of Srila Prabhupada's health or activities between October 9, 1976 and January 8, 1977 since Satsvarupa Maharaj did not include anything in his biography from July 20, 1976 to January 9, 1977.. The only known source of information at present is the tape recordings transcribed in the Conversations Books.

DECEMBER 26: In Bombay, Giriraj, Srutasrava and Dr. Patel were discussing the challenges presented by the American deprogrammers.

Giriraj: And then Adi Keshava Maharaj is going with a swami? Chandra Swami, some Indian swami in America. He's going with Adi Keshava Maharaj to meet the new President of the United States on January 27th.

Srila Prabhupada: He's going to see?

Giriraj: Yes, Jimmy Carter… So Adi Keshava Maharaj and this one Indian sannyasi, they are going to make a representation to the new President.

Srila Prabhupada: Who is that Indian swami?

Srutasrava: His name is Chandra Swami.

Srila Prabhupada: Chandra Swami? So why…?

Guest: He's a young man.

Srila Prabhupada: He must be Mayavadi. He's taking advantage of this.

Guest: He's a man who is following Tantric.

Srila Prabhupada: So what is this nonsense? This should not be… He should not accompany. He's taking advantage of it.

Guest: He's also directly associated with the Prime Minister, this young man. Chandra Swami. (Con:28.72-3)

DECEMBER 27: The next day, Chandra Swami again is mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, Who apparently had been informed of Chandra Swami's being favorable to ISKCON because it was the only organization converting Christians back to Hinduism. It was also noted that Chandra Swami had spoken to Indira Gandhi about ISKCON in that regard, and that Gopal Krishna Swami knew of him quite well also. Srila Prabhupada then noted that "(Chandra Swami) said that 'I am not very much interested in Hare Krishna…" but that he appreciated the conversion back to Hinduism of many people. (Con:28.120-1)

SUMMARY 1976: Srila Prabhupada had an illness in Hawaii for a few days in May, a renewal of illness in New Vrindaban, and a more serious illness in New York in July, worsening upon leaving New York and lasting for months in Europe and India. The European illness was characterized by general weakness, heart palpitations, swelling, poor appetite, and respiratory infection-like symptoms of cough, cold, and mucus. It is certainly an unusual combination of symptoms to find all at once: digestive, cardiac, and respiratory. Is it possible that Srila Prabhupada's arsenic poisoning began in 1976? The symptoms, especially those upon leaving New York, appear wholly compatible with this possibility. That Srila Prabhupada was old and had a long-standing weakness in the kidneys is acknowledged, yet, we find that the May to August period of illness in 1976 resembles arsenic poisoning, if we judge by the symptoms.

Since we now know there was poisoning in progress in October 1977, it is only natural to wonder how early it may have begun. (see Chapter 33 ) How far back in time did the poisoning begin? The symptoms support the possibility that it may have begun as early as May 4, 1976 when Tamal and Dristadyumna visited Srila Prabhupada in Hawaii.

Will be continued on Part 10

Srila Prabhupada left this mortal world on November 14, 1977.
But He lives forever in His instructions, and His followers will always live with Him.

"He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die
While thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the Holy Name around"
(Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura)


Index - Overview