The Monk who Loved Life

How many people can say they love life? How many jump out of bed, inspired and enthused, on a mission that has captured their imagination? How many people are so driven that no amount of complexity or challenge could deflate them? Janakinath Das, aka JD, was a rare soul who exhibited such hunger for life.

He was a modern-day saint. An urban monk. You’d spot him in a baseball cap practicing new magic tricks, utilizing technology and communicating profound spiritual truths through the lingo of the ghetto. JD was a powerhouse of spiritual energy – buzzing and bouncing from one mission to the next, conquering hearts with his simple smile and soft heart. His character exuded saintliness – tolerant, compassionate, friendly to all, without enemies and always peaceful. A childlike innocence that you couldn’t imitate. No time to criticize or complain, always progressive and positive.

For him, life was a perpetual adventure. When he took up spirituality, became a monk and travelled the world with his backpack… it was an adventure. Later, when he was diagnosed with cancer, it was another adventure. When he was told he had three months to live, it was another adventure. When we talked about the arrangements for his own funeral, it was another adventure! In his final days, a medical opportunity arose. “Boom!” he said “let’s do it”… it was an adventure, the last one of this life. JD left the world on the battlefield, embracing an unlikely prospect to turn his health around. He wanted to extend his time, not because he was scared of death, but because he was in love with life. Every moment was valuable because it brought beautiful opportunities to serve others.

JD loved life because he knew how to live life. When people struggled he never judged them, ignored them, or remained indifferent, but rather extended a loving, helping hand. We’d have arguments – I’d make the ‘right’ managerial decisions, but he’d make decisions which empowered, enthused, elevated and encouraged others. He showed me how a spiritualist could also be a kind human. When there was an opportunity to serve, he was never lazy, apathetic, or hesitant – he rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in, whatever the task. He knew the secret… he was a giver.

His life was hijacked by acute obstacles, but he responded with grace, resilience and inspired positivity. Those obstacles went from bad to worse to unthinkable. Month after month, year after year, the violent and aggressive reversals increased in intensity – 30 pills a day, relentless cycles of chemo, endless nights alone in hospital, loss of voice, physical incapacitation and inability to perform the most fundamental human functions. How such experiences can destroy someone! The heat kept rising, but JD’s spirit outgrew it, absorbing everything in the fire of his devotion. The last human freedom is the freedom to remain enthusiastic about life. A shining example for us all – he loved life because he knew how to live life.

JD wasn’t just positive, but spiritually deep as well. He had implanted the most profound aspirations within his heart and was aiming for the North Star of spiritual perfection. Before the world went into lockdown he made one last trip to Vrindavana, the most holy of places. There he connected with the sweetness of transcendence, and when he came back, knew where he was aiming. He intensified this divine meditation till the final breath. I foolishly underestimated him!

O JD, who was always buzzing! Maybe now you’re buzzing with the bees in the divine playground of God known as Goloka Vrindavana. Perhaps you’re buzzing somewhere else in this universe, banging a drum in the electrifying movement of Sri Caitanyadeva, cooking up a spiritual revolution of love. JD, my friend, you were miles ahead! You did it, and I’m so happy for you. Hopefully we’ll meet again for some more spiritual adventures, and this time I’ll follow you, so that I can learn to love life just as you did.