A Tribute to My Feathered Friend–by Hari dasa

The other day one of my friends left his body. He was probably one of the most unusual friends I have ever had (and I have had some weird friends I can tell you!) and certainly the oldest.


He was a turkey and actually had a few names, from Gobbledaksayi Vishnu, to George and then finally Tapapunja called him Hari-gobble, but I simply called him “turkey” as none of the other names seemed to suit so much, but we can surely remember him as someone who came to New Vrindaban at the tail end (or feather end) of his life.

Tapapunja brought him back one day a few weeks ago and I was startled by his appearance and demeanour. There he was in the garden across the road from the lodge and he had his plumage and other apparel on full display (a sign of defensiveness) and he was stomping while ruffling his feathers. I had never seen such an unusual looking bird before and I was a little scared of him at first.

But it didn’t take long for me to realise that he was quite harmless and he let me stroke him and befriend him. Soon, I took it upon myself to make sure he had food and water everyday and as he was staying with the goats I had to take him out into the garden for the day where he would sit quietly under the canopy where we would meet with guests and hold the farm circle meetings on Wednesdays. Because if I left him with the goats they would steal his food. Besides, all the guests and devotees loved having him around and he quickly became a bigger attraction than the goats.

Some people question why we have goats and indeed a real live turkey but the answer is quite simple–we are to be merciful and protect animals from slaughter. The goats that are with us now were destined for the chop and so would have the turkey but their owners gave them to Tapapunja so that we could care for them. What is the harm? And the guests especially love feeding them left over prasad.

So, our turkey friend was very old and tired and weak, it was a struggle to get him in and out of the pen but once he realised it was for his own good (i.e. to feed him and then at night to make sure he was with the goats so cats and raccoons won’t eat him) then he surrendered and followed me. He loved corn especially and drunk loads of water as he was feeling the heat terribly especially over the past few days.

I could see as August was brewing more heat that he was suffering and felt that he may well leave soon due to heat exhaustion and old age. It was actually my desire to make sure that someone was around to chant while he left the body so it came as a shock that today as I got him to the bowls of corn and water in the garden that he all of a sudden started to breathe rapidly and flap his wings wildly. He keeled over and started to shake–he was having a heart attack!

So, somehow I remembered to chant Hare Krsna and when it was clear that he was about to leave I chanted Namaste Narasimhaya while stroking him. I could actually see that he was peaceful towards the end and I think that he appreciated and knew that what I was doing was for his ultimate benefit.

It is said that if one remembers Krsna at the time of death that they go back to Godhead–so what was our turkey’s destination? I am no way a pure chanter but somehow I remembered Radha Krsna while I was chanting and it felt natural. In this was he left his body and then I got maha garlands, Nrsimha Maha-abhiseka oil from Mayapur, Mayapur dust, all sorts of holy waters, Tulasi and caranamrita and did the needful and then we buried him.

I do not think he was an ordinary soul, to come into the association of devotees and a holy tirtha at the end of one’s life is due to past sukriti according to sastra, what to speak of hearing the holy names and getting mahaprasad in various forms.

Just last night, I fed our friend some of the cheesy pasta I made and he ate so much of it! I wonder if he knew it would be his last meal…..

Anyway, if you have any kindness, please say a prayer for our turkey friend that his journey back to Godhead does not get disturbed by any desires to come back to a material situation. We must give mercy especially at the time of death to one and all regardless of our shape or color or social position!

Our turkey friend has taught us all a lesson, that at the time of death we must be around those that will help is remember Krsna and that this is the culmination of everything that we do for the whole duration of our lives.

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